Child custody and the amount for an eligible dependant

Generally, if you are required to make child support payments to a current or former spouse or common-law partner for a child, you cannot claim an amount for an eligible dependant on line 305 for that child.

If you and another person each have a clearly established requirement under a court order or written agreement to make child support payments for a child, normally neither of you would be able to claim the amount for an eligible dependant for that child. However in this case, you may still be eligible to claim the amount for an eligible dependant, as long as you and the other person agree that you will make the claim. If you cannot agree, neither of you can claim an amount for an eligible dependent for that child.

One person paying child support

If you make child support payments for a child and the other parent does not, you cannot claim an amount for an eligible dependant for that child. Only the parent who does not pay child support can claim the amount for an eligible dependant on line 305 of Schedule 1 for that child.

More than one person paying child support

Change in custody

If there was a change in custody during a year and, as a result, you both were required to make child support payments at some point during the year, you have to agree who will claim an amount for an eligible dependent for that child. If you cannot agree who will claim the amount for the child, neither of you can make the claim.

Example 

Terry and Jordan are separated and Drew is their only child. Their court order states that Jordan has sole custody of Drew and Terry pays $500 a month of child support to Jordan for Drew. In 2017, Jordan accepts employment in another province. An amended court order is made in July 2017 stating that Terry now has sole custody of Drew and that Jordan pays Terry $400 a month in child support for Drew.

For the tax years before 2017, Terry cannot claim an amount for an eligible dependant on line 305 of Schedule 1, because he had a legal obligation to pay child support. Jordan can claim an amount for an eligible dependant for Drew for those years, since she had no obligation to pay child support and has custody of Drew.

For the 2017 tax year, both parents had an obligation to pay child support to the other parent for Drew at some point during the year. Terry and Jordan agree that Terry will claim an amount for an eligible dependant on line 305 of Schedule 1. If they did not agree, neither of them could claim the amount on line 305 for Drew.

Shared custody 

If you and another person share custody of a child throughout the year, and you each have a clearly established requirement under a court order or written agreement to make child support payments for that child, normally, neither of you would be able to claim the amount for an eligible dependant  for that child. However, in this case, one of you may still be able to claim the amount, as long as you and the other person agree who will make the claim. If you cannot agree, neither of you can claim the amount for that child.

A court order or written agreement that calculates child support obligations based on a statutory scheme (such as The Federal Child Support Guidelines) does not necessarily establish a requirement for both parents to make child support payments for purposes of the Income Tax Act. Also, the fact that both parents’ income is used to calculate child support is not sufficient to establish a requirement that both parents make child support payments. Unless the order or written agreement clearly establishes that both parents are required to pay child support, only one parent is considered to be making child support payments. In this case, the payer cannot claim the amount for an eligible dependant, and the recipient may be able to claim the amount, provided they are otherwise eligible to claim the amount.

Example 

William and Julie share custody of their children, Emily and Eric. Emily and Eric spend 50% of their time with William and 50% of their time with Julie. Based on William’s and Julie’s incomes, the court order states that William has to pay Julie $250 a month for child support.

Even though Julie’s income was considered when determining the amount each parent had to contribute for the children, only William is considered to have, for purposes of the amount for an eligible dependant, a legal obligation to make child support payments. Therefore, William cannot claim an amount for an eligible dependant for either Emily or Eric. However, Julie can claim an amount for an eligible dependant on line 305 of Schedule 1 for either Emily or Eric, provided she is otherwise eligible.

For more information about your eligibility to claim the amount for an eligible dependant, see line 305.

For more information on tax rules for support payments, see Income Tax Folio S1-F3-C3, Support Payments.

For more information about the Federal Child Support Guidelines and how to determine child support, see The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step on the Department of Justice Canada's website.

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