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What are special and extraordinary expenses?

In addition to child support, when you share custody in British Columbia you may be entitled to receive or required to contribute to the children’s special and extraordinary expenses. These are expenses that are defined to be necessary because they are in a child’s best interests, and reasonable in relation to the means of the parents and of the child and consistent with the family’s spending patterns prior to separation.

In some cases, contributions towards special and extraordinary expenses may dwarf mandated child support expenses. The amount of special and extraordinary expenses can be substantial — those for uninsured dental expenses, day care, and university tuition and living expenses.

Parents are free to agree as to how to allocate these expenses, and also to agree that expenses must be agreed to before they are incurred. This can be a good strategy as it provides a degree of certainty as to what your individual financial obligations may be. In many cases, special and extraordinary expenses are shared on a proportional to income basis. The amount of child support paid and received can be considered in calculating income for this purpose.

Special expenses may include child care expenses, medical and dental premiums for the child, health care needs that exceed $100 and are not covered by insurance, extraordinary expenses for extracurricular and educational activities, and post-secondary education expenses.

Extraordinary expenses are expenses that the parenting requesting a contribution cannot reasonably cover, in light of their income and the amount of child support received, or that are extraordinary in relation to:

  • the income (including child support) of that parent,
  • the nature and number of the programs and extracurricular activities,
  • any special needs and talents of the child,
  • the overall cost of the programs and activities, and
  • any other similar factor that is relevant.

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