High Income Parent and Child Support

Gotham's Morena Baccarin's Husband Files for Divorce: High Income Parent and Child Support

Austin Chick recently filed for divorce from actress Morena Baccarin. He seeks physical custody of their 1-year old son on the basis that her travel for work is not healthy for a young child. Chick is also seeking child and spousal support as he claims Baccarin's annual income to be $1.5 million. He further demands that she pay $3000 a month for nanny expenses.

Assuming Chick succeeds in obtaining primary physical custody of his son, what would child support in this situation look like in Ontario?

In Ontario, a parent's child support obligations are determined in accordance with the Federal Child Support Guidelines (Guidelines). The Guidelines contains Tables that set out the basic amount of child support payable based on the payor spouse's annual pre-tax income, the number of children, and the amount of time each parents spends with the children. It is intended to ensure consistent and fair treatment of children in separating families.

In general, the Table provides a presumptive amount of child support and is applicable to most situations. Judges have limited discretion to deviate from this base amount.

However, Baccarin is a high-income earner, a fact that could affect how her child support payment is calculated. High-income earners are individuals whose annual income exceeds the Tables' upper limit of $150,000. In these situations, an additional amount of support is calculated based on the payor's excess income. If Chick and Baccarin were Ontario residents, her child support payments at an income of $1.5 million would be roughly $11,253 per month.

Section 4(b) provides judicial discretion to deviate from this Table formula amount if they find the level of calculated support to be "inappropriate". Inappropriateness is determined with regard to the means, needs, and circumstances of the child entitled to support as well as the financial ability of each spouse to contribute to maintaining the child. Thus, if a court found Baccarin's table amount to be unsuitably too high or too low in all the circumstances, the judge could reduce or increase the amount she is obliged to pay. However, at this income level it is unlikely that a Judge would reduce the child support.

Furthermore, child care costs are generally considered a special or extraordinary expense under section 7, an "add-on" to the table amount. Such expenses are to be shared by the spouses in proportion to their relative incomes. Whether the nanny expense would be included in Baccarin's child support amount depends on whether it is:

  • (a) necessary in the child's best interests; and
  • (b) reasonable given the means of the spouses and child, as well as the family's spending patterns prior to separation.

It seems unlikely that Chick would be granted $3000 in monthly nanny costs on top of the table amount as the courts may not consider the expense to be 'extraordinary' in relation to Baccarin's high income.

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