The Federal Child Support Guidelines came into force on May 1, 1997.45
The expression "Federal Child Support Guidelines" refers to the entire contents of SOR/97-175, April 8, 1997, as amended from time to time. Accordingly, it includes the provincial and territorial tables that set out fixed amounts of child support as well as detailed rules to be applied by the courts in the assessment of child support. The word "guidelines" is often wrongly used to signify the "table" amount of support payable under the Federal Child Support Guidelines or their provincial counterparts.46The term "guidelines," which was borrowed from foreign jurisdictions, is misleading because it implies that they are advisory and that the courts have a residual discretion to override them. That is neither the case under the Federal Child Support Guidelines in Canada nor under corresponding provincial child support guidelines.47In cases that fall subject to the Divorce Act, the court is required to fix the amount of child support in accordance with the applicable provincial or territorial table except where the Divorce Act or Guidelines otherwise provide. The Federal Child Support Guidelines in Canada have accordingly been characterized in the marginal note to section 3 of the Guidelines as establishing a "presumptive rule."
The objectives of the Federal Child Support Guidelines are expressly defined as follows:
(a) to establish a fair standard of support for children that ensures that they continue to benefit from the financial means of both spouses after separation;
(b) to reduce conflict and tension between spouses by making the calculation of child support more objective;
(c) to improve the efficiency of the legal process by giving courts and spouses guidance in setting the levels of child support orders and encouraging settlement; and
(d) to ensure consistent treatment of spouses and children who are in similar circumstances.48The aforementioned objectives should be promoted in the interpretation and application of the substantive provisions of the Federal Child Support Guidelines.49It has been judicially asserted that "[i]t is proving to be a vain hope that the introduction of the...