Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Special or Extraordinary Expense Definition:

A term of art in Canadian family support law referring to outside-of-the-ordinary expenses related to the care and upkeep of a child.

• See, also, Special or Extraordinary Expenses: The Legal Primer under Family Law at Duhaime.org | Learn Law.

A special or extraordinary expense is payable by the parties in propertion to their respecfive incomes. For example, is the mother has custody and is the recipent of child support and with an annual income of $25,000, and the father as child support payor has an income of $50,000 annually, the father would pay 66.7% of any eligible special or extraordinary expense.

The parents usually agree as to what is or is not a special or extraordinary expense but when they cannot, it is up to a judge to review the expenses being proposed and to decide whether it qualifies or not.

The term special or extraordinary expense is defined in a regulation to the Federal Divorce Act, the Federal Child Support Guidelines, endorsed throughout Canada (at §7):

    • Child care expenses incurred as a result of the custodial parent’s employment, illness, disability or education or training for employment;
    • Medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child;
    • Health-related expenses that exceed insurance reimbursement by at least $100 annually, including orthodontic treatment, professional counselling provided by a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist or any other person, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and prescription drugs, hearing aids, glasses and contact lenses;
    • Primary, secondary or post-secondary school education or for any other educational programs that meet the child’s particular needs; and
    • Extracurricular activities.

Unfortunately, at least for those who aspire to simple, readily-understood principles of law, the Guidelines add considerable number of variables to this list:

"The guiding principle ... is that the expense is shared by the spouses in proportion to their respective incomes after deducting from the expense, the contribution, if any, from the child (§7(2))."

"The expenses may be estimated (§7(1));

"The necessity of the expense in relation to the child’s best interests and the reasonableness of the expense in relation to the means of the spouses and those of the child and to the family’s spending pattern prior to the separation is relevant to the eligibility of a proposed expense. The court must take into account any subsidies, benefits or income tax deductions or credits relating to the expense, and any eligibility to claim a subsidy, benefit or income tax deduction or credit relating to the expense (§7(3))."

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