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Kid Asks Estranged Dad’s Parent for Private School Tuition

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Kid Asks Estranged Dad’s Parent for Private School Tuition

In a recent Blog called “Can Kid Bring His or Her Own Support Claim?” [Link to May 2014 article], I wrote about whether a child can ask for an obtain support independently, in a situation where the child was effectively uncommunicative and estranged from his or her parents.

This week’s Blog deals with a related theme: Whether a child could obtain support for out-of-the-ordinary educational expenses from a parent she had never met. It arises in a recent case called M. v. C., which hinged on the interpretation and effect of a contract between the parents, made at the time the child was born, which absolved the father of child support payments in exchange for a one-time payment.

In this case, the parents wanted nothing to do with each other after their child was born. They agreed that the father would pay a lump sum in full satisfaction of his child support obligations, and never contact the mother and child again. As intended, the child and the father – now a married lawyer with three children who were unaware they had a half-sibling – never met.

However when the child turned about 14, she decided that she wanted to go to private school that would cost about $130,000 in tuition and another $50,000 for textbooks over the course of several years of intended studies there. She tracked down his biological father’s mother (i.e. her grandmother), and wrote her a letter asking for private school tuition and expenses. The grandmother never responded. The child then applied to court for an interim (i.e. temporary) order requiring the father to pay these expenses directly until the matter could be heard by the court in full. She also asked that the father be ordered to pay $50,000 for the costs of having an expert prepare a business valuation report of the father’s income.

The court declined. This was a complicated and a usual family law matter, requiring the court to consider the effect and enforceability of a contract between the parents that was made 14 years earlier. The court had to be careful not to pre-judge the issue until the matter could be heard in full by the court. On the flip-side, the court also declined to throw the matter out entirely, as the father wanted. There were serious issues to be tried.

(And on the issue of the $50,000 fee for the expert report, the court pointed out that the child’s only justification for the claim that the father was wealthy and could afford to pay it was her assertion that “I believe that my birth father has sufficient wealth to be able to contribute to the cost of my litigation expense.” The court found the proposed fee “exorbitant” and the need for it unsubstantiated; it turned the child’s request down).

For the full text of the decision, see:

M. v. C., 2014 ONSC 567 (CanLII)

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at www.RussellAlexander.com.