Until recently, I thought MySupportCalculator.ca (“MSC”) was a government initiative designed to increase access to justice. In fact, this tool was developed by Divorcemate Software Inc. (“DivorceMate”) and is Canada’s only accurate online child & spousal support calculator. It allows individuals to tap into a simplified version of the software relied on by lawyers and judges across the country.
I recently approached MSC about a sponsorship for my podcast, Dealing with Divorce. In speaking with one of the project managers, Faith Feldman, I learned that they receive a ton of enquiries not only about their software but family law in general. We collaborated to answer some of MSC’s most frequently asked questions.
1. What if I have questions about my calculation or my case but I can’t afford a lawyer?
Although the software is very user friendly and utilizes the same calculation engine relied on by lawyers and judges, it is still recommended that everyone obtain legal advice with respect to their family law situation.
There are a number of ways to access free and/or affordable legal advice.
Many family lawyers provide unbundled legal services where they can advise you on particular parts of your case for a flat fee. Don’t be afraid to ask. You can find a list of family law professionals on MySupportCalculator.ca, many of whom offer these types of unbundled services.
You can also try:
- Legal Aid Ontario which provides legal assistance for low-income people
- ASC Toronto provides family lawyers who can provide summary legal advice at a reduced rate
- Justicenet is a not-for-profit service helping people in need of legal expertise, whose income is too high to access Legal Aid and too low to afford standard legal fees
2. Does this calculator work for all the provinces?
In Canada, the Federal Child Support Guidelines govern child support for married couples. For non-married couples, every province and territory has either adopted the Child Support Guidelines or has a counterpart, which essentially mirrors this legislation.
MSC works for all provinces and territories except for Quebec, and ensures that the support calculated is based on the guidelines applicable to your particular province and situation.
3. Is child support based on last year’s income?
A person’s annual income for child support purposes, is determined using the income set out in Line 150 of the payor’s T1 General or Notice of Assessment. Depending on the situation, child support is based on the payor’s last year’s income or his/her current income. In some cases, child support is based on the payor’s income over the last three years.
4. When completing a calculation it gives 3 scenarios for the amount; low, mid and high. How do I know where I fall on that spectrum?
Before you can determine where you fall on the spectrum, you first need to determine whether there is entitlement to spousal support under the law. There is no point in calculating spousal support amounts if there is no legal requirement to pay it. It is highly recommended that you obtain independent legal advice at this stage of the analysis.
MSC provides low, mid and high points for spousal support based on the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAGs). The SSAGs are guidelines, not law; however, they generally form the basis for judges’ decisions.
Choosing a location within the range requires a thoughtful analysis and should be discussed with a lawyer. Below is a non-exhaustive list of factors to assist in determining where you might fall within the range:
- Strength of any compensatory claim
- Recipient’s needs
- Age, number, needs and standard of living of children
- Needs and ability of payor to pay
- Work incentives for payor
- Property division and debt
- Incentive for self-sufficiency
5. How do I know how long I have to pay spousal support for?
MSC and the SSAGs use different formulas to provide a range for the duration of support.
Using the “Without child support formula”, duration ranges from 0.5 to 1 year of support for each year of marriage. However, support will be considered indefinite, meaning that no duration is specified, if the marriage is 20 years or longer.
When using the “With child support formula”, there are two tests for duration – the length-of-marriage test and the age-of-children test. The SSAGs apply the longer duration of the two tests.
6. Does the calculator consider benefits and credits in the calculation?
MSC automatically considers the benefits and credits applicable to the specific situation. For example, the Canada Child Benefit will automatically be considered if you select children in your calculation. Certain benefits and credits will only be applicable in more complex situations handled by MSC Advantage, the enhanced version of MSC.
7. Why do I get a different number when I calculate spousal support alone versus when I calculate spousal and child support together?
The “Without child support formula” applies in cases where there are no dependent children and therefore no child support obligations. Practically speaking, if a payor is obligated to pay child support, they will likely have a reduced ability to pay spousal support. The formula for spousal support therefore differs depending on whether there are children. The formula must take into account the payment of child support as it is prioritized over spousal support. When using the same income, the “With child support formula” will typically generate lower ranges for spousal support than the “Without child support formula”.
8. I see you use DivorceMate software and I was wondering if MSC Advantage shows the same detailed calculations that DivorceMate does?
Since MSC uses the DivorceMate calculation engine, when you input the exact same information into both programs, they will provide the exact same child support and spousal support results. However, there are detailed results provided with DivorceMate Software that are only available to legal professionals.
9. At what age does child support stop? My child is over 18 and attending university/college full time.
Contrary to popular belief, child support does not automatically end at the age of 18. Although 18 is the legal age of majority in most provinces, support can continue well beyond that age if a child is still a dependent.
Both the Divorce Act (which applies to married parents) and the Family Law Act (which applies to unmarried parents in Ontario) require payors to pay support for children that are under the age of majority or over the age of majority and enrolled in a full-time program of education. Other reasons such as illness or disability may also entitle a child to receive child support over and above their 18th birthday.