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Who Gets the Canada Child Benefit?

One of the most common questions I get from clients going through a separation is "what happens with my Canada Child Benefit once I separate?" Many people rely on this benefit to help cover the costs of food, clothing, or other family expenses. But what happens when you separate? Who gets the benefit and how much do you get?

The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) (formerly known as the Child Tax Benefit) is a tax-free monthly payment from the government to help with the costs associated with raising kids. This benefit is given to primary caregivers of children, and given that separations usually come with custody (or decision-making) disputes, this can be a bit of a tricky thing to resolve.

The first thing to establish is the definition of "primary caregiver". The CRA defines primary caregiver as an individual who resides with the child for more than 60% of the time, is responsible for their care, and who supervises their daily activities and needs.

Parenting plans and schedules can vary from couple to couple, but thankfully, the Canada Revenue Agency has clear guidelines for how they give out the CCB depending on your specific situation. (For more info, visit this link: Your Guide to Law in Ontario)


If you and your separated spouse share parenting-time with your children 50/50 (or 40%-60%), and you are both considered caregivers of the children, CRA calculates the amount each parent receives, separately. They do this based on your respective incomes, and each parent receives half of what they usually would if they had sole residency of the children. This means that your share of the CCB does not depend on your separated spouse's income. (For instance: based on your annual income of $20,000.00 you may be entitled to several hundreds of dollars per month, per child and your separated spouse who earns over $100,000.0 may be entitled to nothing).

If you have primary residence of your children all of the time, or more than 60% of the time, you are the one entitled to the CCB and should apply accordingly.

Lastly, let's say your separated spouse has primary residence of the children for most of the year, but you get the children full-time during the summer (or any other temporary period of time during the year). You are entitled to apply for the CCB during the time-period that you have primary residence of the children. However, as soon as the children return to your separated spouse's care, they need to reapply to receive the CCB again.

Ultimately, no matter your parenting plan, it is crucial to be fully transparent with the CRA if anything changes in terms of how much time you spend with your children. This is extremely important since if you suddenly go from having primary residence of your children to shared parenting-time but fail to declare this change to the CRA and continue collecting the CCB amount for primary residence, the CRA may request a refund from you for the amount you received in excess. Essentially, you may find yourself in a lot of debt if you don't keep the CRA fully informed and updated.

In summary, separating from your spouse can bring about a wide array of questions. A separation can have numerous secondary effects that leave you confused and wondering about the little things (such as the CCB) and how your life changes day to day once you separate. That is why meeting with a lawyer can help put things into perspective and answer questions like these, to help you feel more at ease with your new lifestyle. It is also comforting to have a legal expert you can contact if ever you have questions.

If you're considering a separation, or have any questions associated with the process of separation, contact us today to set up an initial consultation.


Jolanta Bula B.A. (Hons.) J.D. #childsupport #legalseparation #stcatharineslawyer #ontariolaw Disclaimer Jolanta Bula Legal Professional Corporation confirms that the content of this website is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or other professional opinion of any kind. Should you require specific legal advice, please contact Jolanta Bula, Legal Professional Corporation directly regarding your specific inquiry. Jolanta Bula, Legal Professional Corporation does not warrant or guarantee any information of this website as any reliance upon it will be at the user's own risk. Accessing or using this website does not create a lawyer-client relationship in any fashion nor ill any unsolicited information be treated as confidential under lawyer-client privilege.


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