In most instances, when people refer to child support, they do so in reference to a monthly amount of money one parent pays to the other for child-related expenses such as food, lodging, etc. However, some expenses are not covered by child support. These include post-secondary education, sports, and in some cases, childcare. These are known as Section 7 expenses (because they fall under Section 7(1) of the Alberta Child Support Guidelines). However, it should be noted that not all expenses that can qualify under Section 7 necessarily do. This is demonstrated in a recent decision from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.
Mother claims she needs a full-time nanny
The parties involved in the trial had one child, born in 2013 before they separated in 2014. At the time of their separation, the parties remained in Fort McMurray. However, in 2016 the mother was laid off from her job and relocated with the child to Calgary. The father continues to visit the child as his schedule allows.
A February 2018 order required the father to pay the mother $900 per month towards the child’s nanny, with the order being retroactive to August 1, 2017. At the time of the order, the mother’s income was imputed at $25,775.
However, the father came back to the court and asked it to reconsider the order, stating it was issued on the basis that the mother would be resuming full-time employment when she moved to Calgary. He took the position that she was not working full-time, and certainly not enough to warrant the costs of a full-time nanny. He asked the court to side with him in determining the nanny expenses were not reasonable in relation to the parties’ income.
Are the nanny expenses a proper Section 7 expense?
When the order was issued, a live-in-nanny was employed at the mother’s home at a cost of $2,800 per month. However, she quit in June 2019 and was replaced with a live-out nanny at a cost of $1,000 per month.
The mother declared bankruptcy in 2019 and began working for a financial services company owned by her parents. After beginning work there she obtained various licenses such as a Mutual Fund License, a Branch Manager designation, and a Life Insurance license. She described her days as being very busy, often continuing to the late evening.
Despite all of her work, however, the mother’s income was under $3,000 in 2018 and 2019, and was $7,796 in 2020. Her childcare costs in each of those years were $33,053, $15,823, and $13,200 respectively
The court noted that the Guidelines require the mother to bear the onus of establishing that the expenses are necessary and reasonable in relation to the means of the parents.
In this case, the court was not satisfied that the mother’s child care costs were incurred as a result of her employment, education, or training for employment. The court said it would be reasonable for the mother’s work to result in some meaningful income, which has not been the case. The mother’s previous job paid her about $160,000, and the court said she had an obligation to earn a meaningful living.
As a result, the court ordered that the current Section 7 payments be terminated and that the father should be reimbursed for his payments retroactive to January 1, 2018.
If you have questions about spousal or child support rights or obligations, call HMC Lawyers at 1-800-480-3534 or contact us online. We represent clients primarily in Calgary and surrounding areas.