25 May 2011

DivorceMate Provides Free Advisory Guidelines Calculator

In April 2011, DivorceMate, one of Canada's major publishers of spousal support and child support software, published a new website, www.mysupportcalculator.ca. The website advertises lawyers and law firms, performs child support calculations under the Child Support Guidelines and, most importantly, performs spousal support calculations using the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines formulas.

Although the spousal support calculators available at mysupportcalculator.ca do not generate results which match those produced by DivorceMate's expensive software for professionals and do not account for all of the factors which can impact on the Advisory Guidelines formula results (such as source of income, tax benefits, deductions and credits, payments to special expenses, and so forth), the results will be fine for most people most of the time.

(One point about the Advisory Guidelines deserves particular mention. The spousal support formulas will almost always produce some numbers for spousal support. However, the mere fact that the formulas — and the www.mysupportcalculator.ca calculators — generate numbers for amount and duration does not mean that someone is entitled to receive spousal support. Entitlement must be established first. Once entitlement is established, then the results have significance.)

DivorceMate deserves much praise for making these calculators publicly available. The new website goes a long way toward addressing the need for free, public calculators which can handle the complex math required by the Advisory Guidelines.

For an overview of the Advisory Guidelines formulas and a complete review of the data they require, see my paper "Obtaining Reliable and Repeatable SSAG Calculations" (PDF) from the website of the Department of Justice.

Update: 12 July 2011

Having updated my DivorceMate software, I am pleased to report that the results of the free www.mysupportcalculator.ca calculator are an almost exact match to the results generated by the professional software when the data are limited to match the www.mysupportcalculator.ca inputs. Good job, DivorceMate!

48 comments:

  1. Tim Legere20/6/11 3:24 PM

    John-Paul,

    Great news and about time! Thanks for letting us know. I have PAID to have mine re-calculated 3 times since my separation. At $200 a pop ... it was NOT cheap.

    Tim Legere

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  2. Fabulous! Great post as always, and thanks for letting us know. But I'm intrigued that you've found mysupportcalculator.ca results that don't match Divorcemate results. I''ve got Divorcemate Tools 2K10 and it seems to churn out the same results as mysupportcalculator.ca does, at least for those very simple situations that MySupportCalculator handles. Can you specify which inputs produce different results in the two ?

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  3. The problem seems to have been that I was running the numbers using DivorceMate's old interface (the one with all the different tabs and pop-up windows and whatnot), not the new single-page interface, and DivorceMate, at some unknown point in the past, stopped provided updates for the engine driving the old interface.

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  4. Using version 2011.0701 of DivorceMate One, I noted negligible inconsistencies in the calculation of the low ranges for quantum and duration using the "with children" formula.

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  5. I realize that divorcemate calulators take many factors into consideration, but they fail to consider that most divorced/separated single men can't even afford to pay their basic living costs. I am currently paying child support, spousal support and 65% of daycare costs on an interim basis. After taxes, over half of my monthly income is going to my ex(common law). I am currently going in to debt 1,000.00 dollars every month to cover my basic living costs. It's difficult to accept this as fair, considering she's capable of working full-time, but she won't. There's something seriously wrong with our system.

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    1. From a payee perspective, I am outraged that your ex would take you to the cleaners like that. Something is really wrong indeed. It is high time the payers band together to do something about this. I get table rate from my ex, no more. I only take table rate because we live 4 hours apart and I usually bring our daughter to him, if not half way. I probably see a bit more than half to use for my daughter's needs. More than enough.

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    2. Anonymous I completely Agree with you. Why can the woman demand so much and succeed. I like you pay spousal support & child support along with University expense etc. In my situation her lawyer wants me to pay Spousal till I retire and then have her take a portion of my CPP and then when I die she can than cash in my Life Insurance policy, I was married 23 years for the record. Like Anonymous I believe she has a responsibility to herself and to work full time and NOT think that she is entitled for spousal support for a long period of time. As Males we only want what's fair we also contributed to the marriage and helped raise the children, we all have responsibilities to ourselves, regardless of the situation.

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    3. I was taken to cleaners too. It is high time, payers banded together and had a Spring Revolution. Enough is Enough. Women want equality but want to be paid - hahah what kind of equality is that.
      I think men should get smart and stop marrying. Cheaper to buy sex.

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  6. How much does it cost to have a lawyer look at a case and calculate child and spousal support. About $200 you say Tim? Is that industry average Paul?

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    1. I can't speak for all family law lawyers, but I think that if someone was going to hire me to do a calculate spousal support for them under the Advisory Guidelines, I'd charge at my usual hourly rate. I think that for most cases I'd be done in 0.2 hours for a bill of $70 plus tax to get the information and run the calculation, but that's without any legal advice or discussion of what the numbers mean.

      Complicated cases where self-employment needs to be adjusted or there's something funky going on with child support can take some time to get through, and I can see Tim's bill of $200 sometimes being reasonable. Lawyers have sometimes hired me to do difficult calculations for them, and in cases like that my bill has been north of $350.

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    2. Interesting but...... I input all the stats and came out with spousal support between $5900. - $7900. /mon. I got nothing after 4+ years of litigation; a 16 day Trial; 8 post Decision chambers sessions "to get direction" all driven by opposing counsel. I've lost everything and there is no guarantee this will ever end if i have to respond to every Application, Affidavit, etc she throws at me. It took her, partner in a large local law firm with 30 years experience, 7 post Decision chambers sessions just to write a Final Order? Just because one litigant has deep pockets and wants vengence the other is destroyed because there are no mechanisms available to stop this unethical representation.
      And the courts are backlogged? maybe the media should look at the representatives of the Law.

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    3. Yes, the courts are quite badly backlogged, both the Provincial Court and the Supreme Court.

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  7. Is there any recourse when the WRONG Spousal Support Formula is used (e.g. WITHOUT Children as opposed to WITH Children when the couple has children) and an offer was made, accepted and placed into a Separation Agreement? Also, if the amount offered was a MID-RANGE amount under the incorrect formula and represents a HIGH-RANGE amount under the correct formula would this be grounds for a Variation (i.e. reduction)? Scenario: Assume a 12 year marriage. Without Children Formula has $1,000 Mid-Range. With Children Formula has a $775 Mid-Range. Payments are made consistently for 7 years since Separation Agreement signed.

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    1. If the wrong formula was used to determine spousal support in a separation agreement and you didn't discover the error until after you'd signed the agreement, you might be able to ask that the agreement be set aside on the ground of your mistake. You should talk to the lawyer who helped you with the agreement to discuss you options.

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  8. Is an opposing lawyer under any obligation to point-out that the offered spousal support amount is NOT a mid-point value when the proposal refers to the amount as being "well within the guideline range".

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    1. I think that "within the Advisory Guidelines range" could refer to any number from the low end of the range to the high end of the range; I'm not sure that "well within" the range necessarily means a number that is not the low number and not the high number. There might be a problem if the lawyer said "my proposal is the mid-point of the range" when it plainly wasn't.

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  9. Are you aware of any "intervening legislative and tax changes" that might have caused the SSAG software (e.g. Divorcemate) to produce calculations that differ significantly (e.g. by 30%) between when they were used in 2006 and then again in 2012? Note: The data and parameters entered are identical.

    Scenario:

    1. SSAG Calculation Performed in 2006 for 2006:

    Formula: With Child Support
    Payor's Income: $85,000
    Payee's Income: $13,500
    Marriage/Co-habitation: 12 Years
    Children: 2 (born in 1995 and 1997)

    Spousal Support Ranges:
    Low: $867.00 a month
    Mid: $1,1143.00 a month
    High: $1,398.00 a month

    2. SSAG Calculation Performed in 2012 for 2006:

    Formula: With Child Support
    Payor's Income: $85,000
    Payee's Income: $13,500
    Marriage/Co-habitation: 12 Years
    Children: 2 (born in 1995 and 1997)

    Spousal Support Ranges:
    Low: $592 a month
    Mid: $819 a month
    High: $1,078 a month

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  10. That's quite interesting. Some potential changes that leap to mind to account for this are: different child-related tax benefits and credits, the new child support tables that came into effect on 31 December 2011, and tax rates that have changed between then and now. I also know that DivorceMate has issues dozens of updates for their software and there were some bugs in the early versions of the software.

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  11. Interesting indeed. So it is possible that the midpoint agreed to in 2006 (e.g. approximately $1,000) was incorrect then and should have been closer to what is calculated now in 2012 (e.g. $819.00)?

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    1. I'm not sure about that. Like I said, there have been changes to the child-related tax benefits, new tax rates and child support tables. the with-children formula is supposed to take these things into account in determining the range for spousal support payments.

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  12. Divorcemate is a complete fraud and where it does work lawyers are incapable of completing it properly. This is what happens when lawyers pretend to be accountants. As proof of my accusations, here is just the first paragraph under Divorcemate's explanation of Employment Income and my correct explanation.

    Employment income
    If the party is employed (ie. receives a T4 slip), input the appropriate gross annual income prior to deductions, including any taxable benefit amounts that are or will be subject to income tax (T1, Line 101; T4 slip, Box 14).
    (Note that income of corporate owners who don't pay EI, but pay double CPP, should be input under "Self- employment income (net)" to ensure proper treatment of this income by the software.)

    My rebuttal

    There can be many adjustments to Box 14 as it may not be reflective of true Income including but not limited to deferred income and stock options.

    As for Corporate Owners, Divorcemate is completely clueless. Corporate Owners have 1X CPP deducted from their paystubs. The other 1X is deducted as an expense on their corporate income statement. If you do what Divorcemate recommends, it has the effect of taking 3X CPP. 2X by incorrectly entering it as unincorporated income and 1X through the corporate income statement.

    So in the first paragraph there are numerous errors and the whole program is riddled with errors.

    My supportcalculator.ca is a watered down version of Divorcemate's full program. So you can imagine what total garbage it is.

    And lawyers wonder why Family Court is in crisis? Isn't it obvious? They are the problem!!

    Care to comment Mr Boyd?

    If you really do care about client's which in my experience lawyers only care about promoting conflict to rake in exorbitant lawyers fees, then I will provide you with my email address and tell you everything else that is wrong with it.

    PS I have checked 20 calculations by lawyers and 100% of the time they are wrong.

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    1. My paper "Obtaining Reliable and Repeatable SSAG Calculations" is published by the Department of Justice as a companion to the Advisory Guidelines and is available here:

      http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/fl-df/spousal-epoux/topic-theme/calc/index.html

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  13. John-Paul, I have two kids from the primary marriage (share custody) and one natural child of my current relationship. The March 2010 New and Improved User Guide to SSAG (pg 53) reviewed the Kontogiannis vs Langridge (BC) decision regarding an awarded reduction in spousal support for second family children and made the following statement with regard to applying Spousal:
    "The Advisory Guidelines can assist in assessing the amount of any downward departure in a “subsequent child” case, by adjusting the range for a notional amount of child support in the same fashion as one does for a “prior” child support obligation".
    I went for a consultation to get advice regarding this second family scenario. The lawyer ran the Divorcemate calculation by assigning two children shared custody and my second family child under my sole custody (presumably the notional amount for the subsequent child "downward departure"). The result: Divorcemate calculated that my spousal contribution range should be higher than if I just excluded the second family child under my sole custody. What gives with the software?

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    1. It may not be an error in the software but how the data is being entered. If I recall correctly, to adjust the child support amount downward, you needed to override the automatic use of the Guidelines number. However, this would free up more income to be used as spousal support. Perhaps the solution is to override and increase the amount of child support being paid; this would reflect your higher child support obligation and reduce the income available for spousal support.

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    2. Okay, using the mysupportcalculator.ca calculator, and using the minimums of the spousal ranges below only for simplicity sake to understand the correct math process, with incomes of $80500 and $17000 respectively, I calculate a child support obligation of $1277/month for 3 children (all entered as shared custody) and $304 minimum for spousal. For 2 primary family children with shared custody, the child set-off obligation is $934/month and minimum of $740 spousal. Should $934 be used as the child support amount but the difference between the two child amounts be determined (ie. a notional amount of $1277 - $934 = $337 for the second family child) and then subtract it from the primary family spousal amount ($740 - $337 = $403/month)? Notwithstanding the amounts, does the approach look corrrect?
      I sympathize with some of the comments above and hesitate to set up another legal consultation only to get another wrong or uncertain answer.

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    3. I'm sorry, but I cant give legal advice through this blog. I expect this will be frustrating, but the professional rules about conflicts of interest and verifying clients' identities make it impossible. What I'd suggest is that you see a Vancouver lawyer named Scott Booth. He and I have lectured and written extensively on the Advisory Guidelines, often together, and I see him as having a special expertise on the subject.

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    4. It's funny that I would have to go to BC to get a properly "informed" assessment. I live in Ontario and I consulted with a family law specialist yielding no satisfactory answer, when I simply wished to know what method the SSAG calculations would prescribe! What a sad state of affairs...but I guess it keeps the family law profession working at full capacity.

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    5. Sorry, I assumed you were in BC as that is the legal jurisdiction which this blog talks about. I know there are many very good lawyers in Ontario who can help. And before you get cranky about the legal profession, I will just remind you that the information provided in this blog is given for free and, as it says in the column at right, I can't give legal advice in reply to comments; I have already tried explaining the professional conduct guidelines that restrict what I can and can't do. If cost is an issue, there are a number of pro bono clinic programs in Ontario which will let you see a lawyer for free. Maybe that will help.

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    6. Hi Anonymous, I am in a similar situation, subsequent child. Would like to exchange information if you would like?

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  14. Jean-Paul, what about a situation where the youngest child of the marriage will soon be graduating from school and thus child support will end? In terms of calculating spousal support for a long-term marriage, would you use the "with child" calculator for the short term and then switch to the "without child" afterwards?

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    1. There's no clear rule about this, but if there's a short time elapsing until child support doesn't need to be paid any longer, I'd do two calculations based on the same income, and pay on the results for the "with child" formula until the child ceases being entitled to support then switch to pay on the results for the "without child" formula. Of course, this assumes that there is a short, and certain period passing until the child stops being entitled and that no one's income is going change dramatically in that period.

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  15. I went throught a legal separation in October/November of 2011. After the lawyers awarded my ex wife all of my rrsp's and 90% of the equity in a mutually owned home, my lawyer informed me that I must also hand over $2,700 a month in spousal support. This, she callously informed me is the number that they arrived at using DivorceMate software. It amounted to 65% of my take home pay. My ex wife, better educated than myself was running a "business", strictly cash of course. Although she was just as capable of working as I was, my life savings and future earnings were basically hijacked by an incredibly inept and unfair legal system, combined with a ridiculous piece of software that only a lawyer could find worthwhile which takes no deductions to your paycheque into account. Horrible job DivorceMate!!!

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    1. I can appreciate why you'd be unhappy with the results of your separation. However, let me clear up a few things.

      First, "the lawyers" didn't "award" your wife anything; the division of your property resulted from either an order that a judge imposed on you or a settlement that you agreed to.

      Second, you either agreed or were ordered to pay spousal support to your wife. If this was something you agreed to, you had the right to say no. If this was something that was ordered by a judge, you had the opportunity to explain your views about your wife's earnings and earning potential to the judge. And if you didn't like what the judge ordered, you had the option to appeal.

      Third, the software DivorceMate has created is only a tool. It does two things. It can perform the calculations required by the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines or it can calculate a range of support scenarios the way we used to do it before the Advisory Guidelines came into the picture. Under the old way of doing things, we looked at net dollars to see what the payor could pay (after paying for CPP, EI, taxes and so forth) and the benefit the recipient would actually receive (after paying tax on the support payments). The Advisory Guidelines has two formulas, and although the one used when the couple have children does take taxes and deductions into account, the one used when the couple do not have children doesn't take those things into account. If you have a problem with this, it's not with DivorceMate but the Advisory Guidelines.

      Let me say one more thing about the Advisory Guidelines. This is an academic paper, not a rule or a law. Although the Department of Justice commissioned the paper, it's never become a regulation to the Divorce Act and its use, though common, is not mandated by law. This is something you should write to your MP or MLA about.

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    2. Jean-Paul is right. I'm in the same situation. My ex was self-employed, running a business, strictly for cash and under-reporting income and under-employing herself. Rather than conceding to the ridiculous demands of her lawyer, I put enough doubt into her arguments by showing her lifestyle didn't match her reported income and pursued disclosure of her bank statements and personal expenses. She's resisting disclosure (or course), and although it's not over, the case management judge at least indicated that an income would likely be imputed to her which more reasonably reflects what she is 'capable' of making, not what she's reporting. Notwithstanding, the part about mandatory deductions to your paycheck, the issue had less to do with Divorcemate. My Divorcemate spousal calculations are less than half of what her lawyer's are. And because of my mandatory pension deductions, I'm arguing for the low end of the range per the SSAG.

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    3. Right about what? When we did the asset comparison, everything was in the reasonable range...until they put my pension into it. Some actuary put the value at $178,000, then this was entered into my asset column. An "asset" I didn't even own and may never collect! (not for another 5 1/2 years)
      So...when it came time to argue about spousal support, my financial resources were all but decimated. What little I was left with the lawyers were rapidly using up. It's easy to say that you argued this and I could have just said no to that.....that would have taken money, something I was becoming very short of.

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    4. Yes, I sympathize with that. Me pension plan put my pension value at $143k. Since any judgement or agreement I have will be after January 1, 2012 the new pension rules kicked in and I can authorize the pension administrator to divide it directly at the source rather than trying to extract it from other money that I don't have.

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    5. Interesting. I wasn't given a choice. According to my so-called lawyer, the courts wanted to settle things "here and now" as opposed to letting them drag on. How my having to come up with pension money I hadn't even received and wouldn't for quite a few years is "here and now" was beyond me. At least... if/when I fiinally do start receiving it, my ex spouse will have absolutely no claim on it. Of course I barely am left with anthing until then, giving up everything to her and $2700 a month spousal support. What a great system!

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  16. John-Paul, I'm the poster from October 17, 2013. Just an update and some comments. After providing a significant amount of coaching to the second lawyer I am consulting with for determining the Divorcemate support amounts (applying rather simple 'shared custody' and 'prior child' exceptions), I am close to arriving at a proper amount if spousal support....10 months after I started. I find it unfortunate that I've had to advise my lawyer what to do to get the 'correct' range rather than the other way around. Legal assistants are usually responsible for doing this grunt-work on behalf of their legal firms, yet appear to be ill-equipped for the task and/or simply focused on expediency rather than accuracy; to the detriment of at least one of the parties. In my line of business we normally have 'power users' to help us through with the more complex aspects of our computer applications. While I'm not prepared to label Divorcemate a fraud, lawyers do what lawyers do best but they're no computer software experts. Worse since individuals can't purchase the software. Another reason I can appreciate why most perceive the family law system as biased. My advice to clients: do your own homework, cross-check and be persistent.

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    1. You're right, you shouldn't have had to coach your lawyer through anything. However, the thing that bothers me about your situation isn't about whether lawyers should or shouldn't be expert in computer programs. You should expect the lawyer you consult to know the general tax treatment of different types of income, the impact of the various types of payroll deductions, and the availability of taxable and non-taxable benefits, tax deductions and credits and so forth, to understand how the calculation of spousal support under the Advisory Guidelines is affected. Lawyers aren't computer experts, but they need to know about these things in order to figure out the different inputs required by the Advisory Guidelines software; that's their professional responsibility... and this is also, in my view, why these calculations need to be done by lawyers not legal assistants. I'm sorry you've had this regrettable, and probably expensive, experience.

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  17. Unfortunately clients are unable to ask for their money back when their lawyers fail to deliver satisfactory results, even if this is written into the agreement between the lawyer and the client! If you take your car to a garage and they don't fix the brakes properly, you can take the vehicle back and have it done......no such thing in the legal world.

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    1. Actually, you can. If you believe your lawyer overcharged you, whether because of what he or she actually did or because of the quality of the work performed, you are entitled to ask the lawyer to voluntarily reduce his or her bill. If that gets you nowhere and you still believe you were overcharged, you can apply to court to have your lawyer's bill "taxed" or "assessed." At this sort of hearing, the registrar of the court asks the lawyer to explain his or her bill and the client is entitled to say that too much was charged. The registrar will look critically at the bill and whether the amount charged was worth the work performed and result obtained.

      If you believe that your lawyer was acting incompetently, you are entitled to complain to the law society in your province and the law society will investigate. The law society isn't a club for lawyers (that's the Canadian Bar Association), it's there for the protection of the public, to ensure that the lawyers it licenses are competent to practise law and do so in an ethical manner, and to discipline and even disbar lawyers who have behaved improperly.

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  18. Thanks for the advice. I wonder though if I will be risking further costs, by applying to the courts, should the decision ultimately not be in my favor. I did approach my lawyer and her senior partner about the results obtained with my separation, complete with documentation, and still ended up paying $10,000 for what ended up being an incredibly one sided decision. I will take my concerns to the law society as you suggest.

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  19. Has Spousal support calculations change from 2012 to now? Meaning if I calculate the amount that was done in 2012 and the same now will it be different.

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    1. It should be different if the "with children" formulas are being used, as I assume that things like income tax rates and the amount of statutory deductions for CPP and EI premiums have changed. If you're using the basic "without children" formula, the results should be the same.

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  20. My ex is claiming that I pay mid from 2 years ago I lost 20 % of my pay. So when I calculate the amount I made in 2012 it comes out as low end. So we changed payments and if its mid I would have to pay her almost the same amount as if I made 20% less that makes no sense to me. Does it to you? I think I need a lawyer to help

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    1. That only makes sense if you have kids. The without kids formula is pretty basic math, and the mid-range should be higher than the low-range. However, if you've got kids and you're using the with kids formula, the amounts payable would depend on not just your income but your tax rate, your ex's tax rate, the benefits and deductions available to each of you because of the kids, the rates of CPP and EI and so on, and as the years go by, these numbers go up and down. Making things more complicated as the formula takes into account the effect of you paying and your ex receiving support, each of you can move and and out of different tax brackets which changes the overall calculation again.

      The with kids formula can be quite complicated; you really need to see a family law lawyer with the DivorceMate program. He or she will be able to explain the math and the details of the formula.

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  21. I am self employed; company revenue is 200k annually; paid salary to myself is 50k and ex was 50k; married 10 years, 2 kids and seeking shared custody. Trying to determine how to calculate income so that support can be determined. She's argueing support should be based on the 200k revenue and I'm arguing that isn't a fair statement and should be based mid between what I earned as salary and something reasonable.

    Any suggestions or recommendations based on past experience?

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    1. Sorry, I don't. The general test for self-employment income is the amount of money reasonably available to the payor, starting usually with the company's net earnings before taxes. Some money can be put aside to reinvest in the company, but that'll depend on the nature of the company. Attention will also be paid to the expenses deducted from the company's gross income. For example, money paid to provide you with a car or dry cleaning will often go back to the company's income. Attention will also be paid to new spouses who are drawing from the company for the obvious reasons.

      If the $200,000 revenue is the company's net earnings before tax, that's where you'd start. However, where you go from there all depends on the nature of the business, the business' reasonable expenses and so on. Im afraid that self-employment income can be complicated.

      You really must speak with a family law lawyer in your neighbourhood to get some proper legal advice. Make sure you're speaking with someone with lots of experience dealing with income from sole proprietorships and closely-held companies.

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