Raising children is not inexpensive. Parents who are divorced or separated often have to share the cost of raising their children, such as through child support payments when only one parent has custody of a child. Child support is supposed to cover everyday costs, but special expenses are a part of parenting, and child support payments might not be enough to cover such expenses. To address this, Ontario’s Child Support Guidelines provide what are known as Section 7 expenses, where a court may require a parent to provide financial help to another parent in order to cover special or extraordinary expenses. But what qualifies as a special or extraordinary expense? In a recent case before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the court was asked to determine whether a child’s criminal defense costs qualified.

An expensive lesson

There were a number of issues before the court, with a request for Section 7 expenses being one of them. The mother was seeking Section 7 expenses for their daughter’s grade 12 graduation and criminal defense expenses. The later of the two were incurred after the daughter was charged with driving under the influence and possession of narcotics. The mother paid over $10,000 to help her daughter defend her charges as well as $9,160 in legal fees, three traffic tickets, $1,250 for a vehicle monitoring device, $198 to reinstate her driver’s license, and $634 for a remedial impaired drivers program. The mother did not consult the father about the expenses before paying for them. Her affidavit stated her goals in helping her daughter with these expenses was “ to minimize the effect this mistake would have on (the daughter’s) adult life.”

The father disputed having ever agreed to contribute to the criminal defense expenses. His evidence was that he was of the opinion his daughter needed to learn from her mistakes, and that he had begged her not to drink and drive.

Section 7 expenses

The province’s Child Support Guidelines lay out Section 7 expenses as follows:

“7 (1) In a child support order the court may, on either spouse’s request, provide for an amount to cover all or any portion of the following expenses, which expenses may be estimated, taking into account 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:

  • (a)child care expenses incurred as a result of the custodial parent’s employment, illness, disability or education or training for employment;
  • (b)that portion of the medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child;
  • (c)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;
  • (d)extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education or for any other educational programs that meet the child’s particular needs;
  • (e)expenses for post-secondary education; and
  • (f)extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities.”

The court’s analysis

The court, after reviewing a 2013 decision and a  2014 decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, determined that legal fees paid on behalf of children do not qualify as special or extraordinary Section 7 expenses.

The experienced and compassionate team of family lawyers at Borden Family Law help our clients through the stressful and sometimes confusing process of separation and divorce, including on issues involving child or spousal support. Our in-depth knowledge of the family law system is the result of practicing solely in family law. Please call us at 905-576-6090 or reach us online to discuss your situation today. Please remember to ask about our flat fees.