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Child Support: You Can’t Cut Out the Middle Man (or Woman)

Child Support: You Can’t Cut Out the Middle Man (or Woman)

In a recent decision the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has confirmed that – unless the parents agree otherwise – child support payments should paid to the parent who is entitled to the support, rather than to the child directly. This is true even in situations where the “child” of the marriage is really an adult (i.e. is over 18) but still lives at home and/or attends school and therefore remains dependant on the parents for support.

In Sareen v. Sareen, the parties had agreed in their separation agreement that the father would pay $175 per month into an R.E.S.P. for the benefit of their daughter, and would pay $129 per month towards the premiums for her life insurance. However, once the daughter reached the age of 18, the father stopped making payments into the R.E.S.P., and began paying $150 per month to the daughter directly.

The parties asked the court to decide, among other things, whether it was appropriate for the father to be paying the daughter’s child support directly to her, rather than to the mother.

The court found that it was not. First of all, the court could find no legal authority to support the idea that once a child turns 18, he or she is entitled to receive child support payments directly. Instead, it considered various factors such as a desire to keep children out of their parents’ child support arrangements and disputes, and the overall objective of maintaining certainty in family law.

With these factors in mind, the court decided that even though the daughter was over 18, the mother was still entitled to receive the child support payments on her behalf and still had discretion to determine how the money was to be spent for the daughter’s benefit. Having the father pay the mother directly was the best way to decrease the likelihood of conflict and increase the level of security for the daughter, the court concluded.

In the end, the father was forced to pay child support to the mother for his daughter’s benefit, and was not credited with any previous payments that he had already made to his daughter directly. He was also ordered to pay significant arrears.

The Sareen v. Sareen decision is available at http://bit.ly/efqAtp

Further family law court decisions can also be found on our website at http://bit.ly/eJmpsx