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Half-Offset Child Support Shared Custody

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  • Half-Offset Child Support Shared Custody

    I decided a while ago that I would post the small discussion that I had with one of the judges. While this is one judge, he indicated that the judges had discussed the issue extensively and had come to a conclusion.

    The problem with the offset system

    In shared custody, parents are often ordered to pay offset to each other. Both pay table amounts of support to each other, and the difference between those two values is actually paid by the higher income person to the lower income person.

    In a nutshell, the offset system is not fair. It essentially flips the amount of money each parent spends on the kid. So if the father is expected to pay $700 for the upkeep of his child, and the mother is expected to pay $1600 for the upkeep of her child, then the offset involves the mother paying $900 to the father. Note that the table amount represents the ENTIRE financial contribution expected of a parent.

    The net result is that the mother now has $900 less (so 1600-900=700) and the father has $900 more (so 700+900=1600). The situations have reversed.

    Before child support:

    Father: spends $700 on kids
    Mother: spends $1600 on kids

    After child support:

    Father: spends $1600 on kids
    Mother: spends $700 on kids

    The situations have reversed. It is patently unfair.

    The half-offset

    With half offset the payor pays half of the difference to the payee. In the above case, the father would receive $450 from the mother. So the father gets (700+450=1150) and the mother gets (1600-450=1150) This results in the following amounts

    Father: spends $1150 on kids
    Mother: spends $1150 on kids

    Seems fair

    Why half-offset may not be fair

    Shared custody is more expensive, so while the father in our example might normally be expected to pay $700 for his kids, with shared custody there is some duplication. Extra shoes, extra bedroom. So perhaps the father might pay $900 and the mother might pay $1900. In that case the appropriate half-offset would be $500, which is more than a straight offset but less than a full-offset.

    When would full-offset be fair?

    Full offset only makes sense if shared custody costs exactly double the amount of a normal custody situation. In other words, full offset assumes that in shared custody the father would actually spend $700x2 = $1400 and the mother would spend $1600x2 = $3200, so offset would be $1800 and the half offset would be $900.

    So what is actually fair?

    Clearly, something between half and full offset. A lot would depend on the actual circumstances of the parents. Have they reduced their costs by repartnering? What are their actual life costs (eg. transportation to work, etc.)? What are the actual extra costs from shared parenting?

    Luckily, the legislation already asks judges to look at these factors. Section 9b and 9c are quite explicit in that regard.

    That said, I believe that the half-offset is almost certainly far closer to fair than the full offset, though I am unsurprised that the default seems to be to round up to full offset.

    The Judge's view

    The judge indicated that the judges had pretty much collectively decided that while "half-offset" was indeed probably more fair on the surface, it didn't account for the fact that the higher income person had a bigger pool of money aside from the money used for child support. Therefore, the full-offset was fair.

    In other words, using the above example...

    Before child support:

    Father: $700 for children + some disposable income
    Mother: $1600 for children + more disposable income

    After child support:

    Father: $1600 for children + some disposable income
    Mother: $700 for children + more disposable income

    The mother has less money for the children, but can make up for the difference through her greater disposable income. In other words, it is expected that the mother will pull an extra $900 from her disposable income to make up for the difference.

    Do I agree with the Judge?

    Not at all, the point was to let people know how the judges view the situation, so that arguments can be crafted appropriately. There may not be a way to convince a judge that anything other than full setoff is appropriate. The case law indicates that judges essentially ignore sections 9b and 9c in almost all shared custody cases anyway.

    Essentially, I believe that litigants need to focus on actual spending patterns and standard of living to have a judge order any deviation of the full offset default in shared custody situations.

  • #2
    The reason the judges go with straight offset is because it's the easiest ruling for them. If two people can agree to a method, more times than not a judge would be acceptable of that, however when you ask a Judge to decide, they are going to take the path of least resistance.

    Each situation is different and there are too many factors to go through when people can't agree.


    • #3
      The judges could default to half-offset, or to the midpoint between full offset and half offset. It is unsurprising that they default to the one that involves the higher amount of money changing hands.


      • #4
        Sure they could, but the assumption is the more money available to the children the better. It is about trying to maintain a similar standard of living at both homes. We all know that's never going to happen, but that's the assumption.

        Sent from my SM-T560NU using Tapatalk


        • #5
          Originally posted by Berner_Faith View Post
          Sure they could, but the assumption is the more money available to the children the better. It is about trying to maintain a similar standard of living at both homes. We all know that's never going to happen, but that's the assumption.
          If similar standards of living was a main consideration, it would be routine for the incomes of other adults in the household to be included in any calculations.

          Call me cynical, but I think it's just a matter of judges not taking the time to understand the math, and believing that "he pays her his full amount, she pays him her full amount" works out perfectly fairly. Even if they understand it's not perfectly fair, they would prefer to stick with something close enough when the alternative is shaking up all of family law with a precedent.

          I've previously expressed that I would love to see a system where both parents put their full CS amounts into a 'pool' and draw from the pool in proportion to their access time.

          If one parent has 100% access, they get their full CS back and the full CS of the other parent.

          If each parent has 50% access, they each get half-offset back.

          And everywhere in between by 10% units or something.

          There would be way less fighting over time because the money wouldn't be so all-or-nothing.

          If the parent with the greater income can provide the child with a better standard of living, despite pulling less money from the pool than they put in, well, that's life. Every child should learn that you get ahead in life by getting a good education and putting in the work.
          Last edited by Rioe; 12-18-2015, 12:37 PM.


          • #6
            I suspect the laws and precedents around CS were formulated in a different era when there was very little shared parenting and most kids had primary residence with one parent (usually Mom). In other words, most kids had one home. Now times have changed and shared parenting is becoming the new norm, but procedures lag behind.

            In a non-shared-parenting situation, the guidelines make sense because in theory the non-resident parent is contributing what s/he would have spent on the child if the marriage had remained intact, based on his/her income level. But in a shared situation, the logic doesn't work because each parent is usually already spending close to the same as what they would have spent if the marriage had remained intact, because each parent maintains a bedroom, a suitably sized residence, clothes and toys, etc, for the child. The kids have two homes, not one, and the cost per kid of maintaining two homes is a lot more than the cost of maintaining one.

            I'm not sure what the solution is. I like Rioe's idea of pooling CS, but I suspend it would never gain wide acceptance because it's more complicated than just calculating a setoff. Perhaps we need two sets of guidelines, one for non-shared situations and one for shared situations (with lower amounts per income level in the shared one), to recognize the additional costs of shared parenting?


            • #7
              If you read the studies etc... You will see that child support us just an anti welfare mechanism.

              Before CS was tax deductible and based on actually needs etc..

              The guidelines came in and they basically removed the tax deductibility (saved mothers and the government loads of cash) and we're calculated at rates WAY higher than judges were typically ordering.

              If the wealthier parent is paying more than mathematically logical that is considered correct in family law.


              • #8
                Yeah, my method has intimidating math in it. Sigh. I donít personally think itís that hard, but apparently math is scary.

                When I called it pooling the money though, I didnít mean that there was literally some kind of bank account they both paid into and both drew from.

                Making up pretend (sexist) numbers, let's say a dad's amount is $1000 a month and a mom's is $500 a month. Their CS 'pool' has $1500 a month in it.

                They pull money out of the pool in proportion to their time spent with the children, in 10% increments, or $150. Then itís just math (or refer to my handy chart!) to see how much each person is supposed to have, and who should pay whom what to make that work out.

                His time / money ---- Her time / money ------- Money changing hands
                0 / $0 ------------------ 100 / $1500 --------------- he pays her $1000 (his full CS)
                10 / $150 -------------- 90 / $1350 ----------------- he pays her $850
                20 / $300 -------------- 80 / $1200 ----------------- he pays her $700
                30 / $450 -------------- 70 / $1050 ----------------- he pays her $550
                40 / $600 -------------- 60 / $900 ------------------- he pays her $400
                50 / $750 -------------- 50 / $750 ------------------- he pays her $250 (half offset)
                60 / $900 -------------- 40 / $600 ------------------- he pays her $100
                70 / $1050 ------------ 30 / $450 ------------------- she pays him $50
                80 / $1200 ------------ 20 / $300 ------------------- she pays him $200
                90 / $1350 ------------ 10 / $150 ------------------- she pays him $350
                100 / $1500 ---------- 0 / $0 ------------------------- she pays him $500 (her full CS)

                No matter what the living arrangements, the children are theoretically being raised on that collective $1500 a month, spread between the households proportionally to the amount of time they spend in each. If either parent wants to spend more, they can, but the system doesnít rely on it.

                Every year, there can be a schedule update as well as an income update. If a parent doesnít exercise their access, or if a parent gets lots of right of first refusal time, well, the next year, the % proportion would be a bit different. I just think that parents would put up MUCH less of a fight about establishing and changing access time if it didnít make so much of a financial difference because the payment curve has been smoothed out.

                You can easily have an imputed income in there too, for one of the parents. It just gets harder to collect the less time they have.
                Last edited by Rioe; 12-18-2015, 04:35 PM. Reason: formatting


                • #9
                  Look who's back... back again...


                  Knave, if you recall I posted some case law on this that was ordered in Kitchener. With some searching someone could find it. (Many years ago.)

                  If I recall the formula used by the justice was to divide the table amounts of each parent paying in half and then do the offset adjustment on half the values.

                  Good Luck!


                  • #10
                    As many have asked... I went and found the case law I am reffering to here:

                    Tang v. Ma, 2010 ONSC 2867 (CanLII)
                    Date: 2010-05-17
                    Docket: 42573-09
                    Citation: Tang v. Ma, 2010 ONSC 2867 (CanLII)

                    Paragraph 11:

                    [11] Commencing as of May 1st, 2010, there will be temporary basic child support pursuant to the Ontario Child Support Guidelines up to the trial. The amounts will be proportionate to each parent’s income. Given that the parties are sharing access equally with Matthews, the child support will be calculated as follows:
                    1. Applicant’s annual wage is: $46,500.00 with guideline value of $425.00 per month.

                    2. Respondent’s annual wage is: $96,665.00 with guideline value of $861.00 per month.

                    3. Applicant pays Ĺ of her $425.00 which equals $212.50 per month.

                    4. Respondent pays Ĺ of his $861.00 which equals $430.00 per month.

                    5. Respondent pays the overall difference of: $430.00 - $212.50 = $217.50 per month.
                    Good Luck!


                    • #11
                      Can anyone comment on how is the percentage of time calculated? Section 9 stipulates that it has to be over 40%. I have my kid with me well over 40% of overnights. But I see rulings where they count hours and decide when kid is in school custodial parent gets that time. Anybody had to deal with this issue recently?


                      • #12
                        There is a lot of threads about that topic on this forum. I believe Janus has posted a bunch on the topic.

                        It's hard to say what is the rule. Overnights seem to be the favorite for judges. But, other cases its hours...

                        Something the divorce act needs to resolve. Time to change it!


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