How should the table amount be determined in section 9(a) before discretion is applied?
A “hybrid” parenting situation is one in which one or both parties is the primary parent of at least one child of the relationship and is in a shared parenting arrangement for at least one other child of the relationship. Given the discretion in section 9 of the Child Support Guidelines (CSG) in determining the table amount of child support in shared parenting arrangement, the question becomes, “How should the table amount be determined per the direction in section 9(a) before discretion is applied through sections 9(b) and (c)?” Section 9(a) simply says to determine the table amount attributable to each party. Nowhere in the Guidelines is the concept of mixed parenting situations specifically addressed, which leave such situations open to interpretation.
While various cases have explored numerous alternatives to determining the table amount, including allocating a percentage of the time to the table amount for the shared child or children, two methods could be said to dominate the landscape – the “economies of scale” concept, which, in part, came about through discussions between software developers and the Ottawa child support team at the inception of the Guidelines, and “hybrid” calculations that have developed from case law. While the “Revised Child Support” section in the ChildView® program may used to address the myriad of suggested “hybrid” alternatives, there is one “hybrid” alternative that has gain greater acceptance in various parts of the country. This is the two step approach described by M. E. Wright J. in Wouters v Wouters (2001 SKQB 142).
Per Wouters v Wouters, M. E. Wright J. says:
16 In my view, in situations where there is a hybrid of custody arrangements, a two-stage analysis should occur. The starting point is with respect to those children whose custody is not shared. They must be viewed independently as a separate and distinct entity from those children whose custody is shared since the discretion afforded by s. 9 of the Guidelines does not extend to them. They are not part of the shared custody arrangement contemplated by s. 9. It is s. 3, which sets forth the presumptive rule that is the operative section with respect to these children.
17 It is only after the child support obligation arising pursuant to s. 3 has been assessed that attention may be turned to the application of s. 9 with respect to the support of the remaining children whose custody is shared. Here there is broad discretion, but only with respect to the support of those children who are the subject of the shared custody arrangement.
23 In this case, the respondent has requested child support totalling $544 per month. By determining the petitioner's child support obligation for Chelsey independently pursuant to s. 3 of the Guidelines, and then utilizing a straight set-off approach in assessing his obligation for the support of Denai and Krista, the petitioner's total obligation will be $562 per month ($328 + $234). In these circumstances, I am satisfied that this approach is appropriate, notwithstanding the present discrepancy in the parties' respective means.
In the calculation of the table amount of child support for the purposes of a hybrid parenting arrangement, ChildView®’s “Guideline Amounts” screen offers the choice between the widely used “economies of scale” method and the “hybrid” method, as proposed by M. E. Wright J. in Wouters v Wouters.
The “economies of scale” method considers the table amount owed by each party based on the child count for all the children of the relationship in the other party’s household. Shared children are counted fully in both households.
The “hybrid” method distinguishes between the children who reside primarily in one household and the children who spend at least forty percent of their time in each household (i.e. “shared” children per section 9 of the CSG). The table amount is determined by a two step process treating each group of children separately and then adding the results together. This method gives more weight to the primary care children than does the “economies of scale” calculation and will produce a higher amount of child support. In some cases, as was the result in Wouter’s, this will be consider sufficient to address the parents’ means and increased costs contemplated by sections 9(b) and (c) of the CSG. In other cases, the “Revised Child Support” section of ChildView®‘s “Guideline Amounts” screen may be used to address any further adjustment to the amount.