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MSC relies on same calculator used by family law professionals

Approximately six years ago, DivorceMate Software Inc., which is available only to family law professionals, created a sister company, MySupportCalculator.ca (MSC) for use by the general public.

“The creation of MSC was an access to justice initiative to ensure that all Canadians, not just those represented by counsel, had access to a free, top quality and accurate online calculator of child and spousal support,” legal software supplier Michael Perlman tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“MSC uses the same calculator used by family law professionals — the DivorceMate calculator — to determine child and spousal support."

Perlman, president of DivorceMate Software, says the calculator was developed hand in hand with the two authors who wrote the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) for the federal government about a decade ago.

The SSAG provide different formulas to calculate spousal support, based on whether there are dependent children involved and the custodial situation; some of these formulas require very complicated mathematical iterations, involving income tax rates, tax benefits and credits, and gross-up rates. he says.

"Depending on the facts of the situation input by the user, the software then knows which SSAG formula to apply in the determination of spousal support," Perlman explains. 

A number of websites have recently popped up claiming to be doing the child and spousal support calculations, making it difficult for users to determine which ones are providing accurate information, he says.

MSC is known for its accuracy and has a proven track record, Perlman says.

Half of all divorce cases now have at least one side representing themselves for a variety of reasons, and the internet is a huge source of information for the self-represented public. Getting incorrect information and data is a real problem for these people, and hugely detrimental to their case. Inaccurate support figures set up false expectations, and can impede the speedy resolution of a case, he says.

"Someone acting on their own behalf might show up at court or mediation with an inaccurate printout and if the other side is using a professional program, like DivorceMate, a comparison of the two sets of numbers will generally be drastically different," Perlman says.

"If these people come to MySupportCalculator.ca, however, they're going to get an accurate calculation, and identical numbers to the professional calculation if the same inputs are used."

He has compared MSC calculations with some other sites, and Perlman says the numbers in even the simplest of cases often result in material differences.

"The ‘With Child Support Formula’ of the SSAG is an extremely complex formula," he says. "These other calculators are often off by hundreds of dollars a month, which translates into thousands of dollars a year. 

“When we challenge these other sites, they question why our numbers are accurate and theirs are not," he says.

"We explain that we worked very closely with the authors of the SSAG when we initially built the calculator to ensure that we were interpreting the formulas correctly and doing the calculations and complicated iterations properly. 

"We continue to maintain contact with the authors when new issues or complexities arise (eg. new tax and benefit rates, such as the repeal of the Universal Child Care Benefit and the implementation of the new Canada Child Benefits); this allows us to continue to monitor and hone the calculator to ensure that it is working as the authors intended. The other calculators simply haven’t invested the time or gained the expertise to understand and apply the complex formulas.” 

Over the past 30 years, DivorceMate’s calculations have been relied on in courts across the country and have been written up in many decisions, Perlman says.

MSC support calculations have also now been recognized and accepted in a number of rulings, including an Alberta case and another in Ontario.

"We don't mind if somebody comes out with a calculator that is accurate. That's the spirit of competition,” Perlman remarks. "But many free websites are providing misinformation and calculations that can’t be trusted. That can put the self-represented individual at a great disadvantage. And that’s just wrong."

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