Child support and spousal support guidelines: Does one-size fit all?

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University of New Brunswick


The law and procedure relating to child and spousal support in Canada can disincentivize results that are genuinely in the best interests of the child and incentivize imperfect financial outcomes that are in the best interest of the adult party. To confirm this proposition, this paper identifies and considers the relevant provisions of the Divorce Act, the Federal Child Support Guidelines, and the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, and reviews literature and case law, with a focus on jurisprudence from New Brunswick. This review highlights the process by which child and spousal support is calculated and the information that is used, and ignored, in the chosen methods in Canada. The analysis in this paper uncovers failings in the family law system relating to child and spousal support orders, such as the finding that the direct link between parenting time and support is ineffective in both the rigid and flexible sections of the legislation. It is concluded that the tools used to calculate support are defective, the application of the law is problematic, and that both can promote litigation and inhibit early resolution. The findings in this paper support the position that the child and spousal support laws and procedures in Canada need an overhaul that would eliminate these deficiencies and abolish the counter-productive incentives that come with a flawed system but still provide the consistency and predictability that the guidelines were intended to create.