Top 5 Principles Around Child Support in Ontario – Parents and Step-Parents, Take Note
A was looking at an Ontario decision called Boivin v. Smith recently, and it made some good points about child support and what role it’s intended to play in the dissolution of the parents’ relationship. These general principles are worth keeping in mind when negotiating child support obligations, and especially when parents head to court to try to have those obligations varied.
By way of background: The court’s discussion was actually set against a child support dispute between the mother and the stepfather who, despite not being the child’s biological father, had nonetheless agreed to pay support for the child while living with the mother and even afterward. The agreement confirmed that the stepfather had a settled intention to treat the child as his own and support her; the mother had given the true biological father a “pass” by settling for less than the legislatively-mandated amount of support and by waiving payment of the arrears he owed her. Essentially, the mother had relied solely on the stepfather for the child’s support.
The mother eventually went to court to have the stepfather’s support increased, and the question arose as to whether and how much he should pay in the circumstances, including the complicated consideration of the financial obligations that should be (or should have been) imposed on the biological father over the years.
In this context, the court examined closely the precedent cases, and came up with the following list of principles that were derived from them (and I am paraphrasing):
1. Child support is the right of the child. It is aimed to give the child the same standard of living as when the parents are together, to the extent possible.
2. Child support orders do not take parents off the hook. Child support orders do not relieve either parent of continually ensuring the children receive and appropriate standard of living. They merely help parents by giving them some certainty and predictability in their everyday financial affairs.
3. There is no excuse for delay. A parent who is entitled to child support but does not pursue it is assumed to be acting unreasonably, unless he or she shows otherwise.
4. Avoiding child support obligations is wrong. A parent who knowingly avoids or holds back on the child support that he or she owes is blameworthy.
5. It’s not good enough to just “settle up” what is owed. A parent who is forced by the court to pay arrears or other unpaid amounts is doing the child an injustice. As the court put it: “A retroactive [court] award is a poor substitute for an obligation that was unfulfilled at an earlier time.”
For the full text of the decision, see:
N.B. v. J.S. (sub. nom. Boivin v. Smith), 2013 ONCJ 426
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