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Kid Cuts Off Parent – Should Child Support Be Cut Off Too?

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Kid Cuts Off Parent – Should Child Support Be Cut Off Too?

I read an interesting case from the U.S. recently, that involved a 13-year old boy who wanted nothing to do with his father. Perhaps this was not surprising, since the mother – from whom the father was separated – had what the court called an “inappropriately hostile” attitude toward the man, and had shown a “pattern of alienation” in her dealings with him. This included numerous instances in which she actively interfered with his regular (and court-ordered) visitation schedule. As the court recounted, the mother had often said that she would “do whatever it takes” to block the father from exercising his right to visitation.

The result was that the teen was now “vehemently opposed” to visiting or having contact with his father, who had not seen the boy since 2010 and was not kept abreast of his school progress and medical status by the mother.

This raised several legal issues, including: 1) whether the boy should be nonetheless compelled to visit and interact with his father; and 2) whether the father should still be required to pay support for a child that wanted nothing to do with him.

The case was heard by a lower court judge, but the ruling was subsequent appealed. The New York appeal court confirmed that while the lower court had authority to find that the teen should not be compelled to visit his father, it was wrong under the circumstances to refuse to grant the father’s motion to suspend child support payments. (Among the factors considered by the court was the mother’s misconduct: Not only was she actively distancing the child from his father, but she also refused to give her consent to have information from mental health providers and school officials, in order to have a court-ordered assessment performed. She also did not bring the boy to a court-ordered interview as required).

Although this U.S. case is an interesting one, it doesn’t quite resonate with the state of the law in Ontario. As I related recently in another blog, even in cases where the parent-child relationship has been severed, the support-paying parent may still have an obligation to continue paying child support, depending on the circumstances.

As with many family law issues, there are certainly no hard-fast rules in either the Canada or the U.S., but these divergent cases on the support ramifications of parent-child estrangement raise a good question:
As a general rule, if the parent-child relationship is severed, should child support obligations be severed, too?

What are your thoughts?

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