Family Law / Divorce Library

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Section 7 Expenses (Extraordinary Expenses, Special Expenses)

Section 7 expenses, also known as "extraordinary expenses" or "special expenses" are expenses for which reimbursement can be sought if they fit within a certain category and meet certain conditions.

These expenses are typically shared between parents based on the proportion of their Guideline Incomes. For example, if one parent earns $100,000, and the other earns $30,000, the first parent will pay 76.9% of section 7 expenses, and the second will pay 23.1% of section 7 expenses (30000/(100000+30000)).

To be reimbursable, courts consider the necessity of the expense in relation to the child's best interests, and the reasonableness of the expense in relation to the means (i.e. income and assets) of the parents and the child, and to the family's spending pattern prior to the separation. These expenses must also exceed the amount that a parent can reasonably cover, taking into account that parent's income and amount of Section 3 child support being paid. For example, this means that for low-income families, expenses such as school fees and supplies could be section 7 expenses, but they often are not for other families. Courts can also consider:

  • the nature and number of the educational programs and extracurricular activities,
  • any special needs and talents of the child or children,
  • the overall cost of the programs and activities, and
  • any other similar factor that the court considers relevant.

The categories of Section 7 expenses are as follows:

  1. child care expenses incurred as a result of the custodial parent’s employment, illness, disability or education or training for employment;
  2. that portion of the medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child;
  3. 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;
  4. extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education or for any other educational programs that meet the child’s particular needs (although usually not public school registration fees or school supplies, unless the parent's incomes are both relatively low);
  5. expenses for post-secondary education (see Adult Children); and
  6. extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities (although there is usually a limit to the number of activities).

Although it's generally expected that receipts will be provided, it may be acceptable for future amounts to be estimated.

It's the after-tax/subsidy/benefits amount that's shared. It's important to determine whether the expense is tax-deductible, whether there are any associated tax credits, whether the Alberta Child Care Subsidy will reimburse for child care, and whether there is a medical or dental plan that will provide some reimbursement.

Whether the other party's consent is required or not is not very clear in the law, however a parent incurring an expense should at least attempt to consult the other parent about significant expenses before incurring them. Otherwise, they could be denied arrears.




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Content by Ken Proudman (Edmonton)

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