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Posts from the ‘Private School’ Category

Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers’ First Annual Holiday Toy Drive

Poster for Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers' Toy Drive

 

Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers are pleased to announce the start of their First Annual Holiday Toy Drive. This year the drive will be supporting Bethesda House located in the Durham Region and A Place Called Home located in The City of Kawartha Lakes.

New, unwrapped gift donations can be made in the Brooklin office for the Bethesda House. They have informed us of the lack of gifts for children 13-17 years of age. Some gift suggestions for them include:

  • Sports equipment
  • Art supplies
  • Games
  • Movie passes and gift cards
  • Purses and backpacks
  • Make-up, lotion, perfume
  • Hats and scarves

The Lindsay office is accepting new, unwrapped gifts to be donated for A Place Called Home. There is no recommended age for donations for this organization.

If you wish to donate to the toy drive this year, it will be running from November 1, 2018 through to December 7, 2018. You may drop by with your donation in the Brooklin or Lindsay office any time between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Monday to Friday. For further details, feel free to give our office a call at 905-655-6335.

Can a Parent Ask Court to Force Kid to Change Schools?

mentor

Can a Parent Ask Court to Force Kid to Change Schools?

If a child has been declared eligible to a school for “gifted” kids, does this mean that one parent can force his or her attendance there, by way of court order?

This was the issue in an Ontario case called Askalan v. Taleb, where the divorcing parents’ conflict centered on their disagreement around their son’s education. For much of his educational career, the boy had attended been attending a private school, for which the mother paid all of the tuition under the terms of the separation agreement she and the father reached. That agreement also stipulated that the parents would continue to jointly make important decisions about the child’s education, but that the mother could decide to pull the child out of private school if she could no longer afford it financially. In that case, the parents agreed to choose an alternate school together.

After the boy was assessed as being intellectually gifted, the mother wanted him transferred to a full-time gifted program at a different school. The father objected; among his concerns was the disruption to the child, and the 10 minutes in extra drive-time to get the boy to school from the father’s house.

Since they could not agree (and the divorce trial was still a long way down the road), the mother brought a motion asking for a temporary court order transferring the child to the other school.

The court started by dismissing outright the father’s accusation that the mother’s motive was strictly to save having to pay private school tuition. The separation agreement included a term allowing the mother to pull the boy out if money was an issue; the court also pointed out that the parents had collectively wasted the equivalent of three years’ tuition merely on arguing the motion before it. So the motive could not have been purely financial.

Next, given that the motion was heard in August, the court lamented its timing:

It is extremely unfortunate that the parents have not been able to come to an agreement as to what is in [their son’s] best interests with respect to schooling, as contemplated by the Separation Agreement. Although as I will come to, the cost of this litigation is troubling, even more concerning is the fact that the failure of the parties to resolve this issue has left [the son] in limbo as to where he will go to school this fall, since the spring of this year and this court with the challenge of making a decision that [the son’s] parents are best suited to make.

It is also unfortunate that this issue has been dealt with on the merits for the first time less than three weeks before the start of the new school year. …

In considering the merits of the mother’s motion, the court began by pointing out that the best interests of the child governed the determination of these kinds of matters – not the preferences or wishes of the parents nor any prior agreement between them. (And on that point, the court added that the couple’s separation agreement was not binding on the court, and did not have the same force as would a court Order.

In considering the unique facts against the best interest test, the court was allowed to consider many factors, including: where the boy was born and raised; how many years he had been attending the current school; and any problems he was having there. It could also look to any decisions that were made by the parents prior to the separation or at the time of separation with respect to schooling.

Here, the mother was clearly motivated to enroll the boy in the gifted program so that he could excel academically and meet his full potential. And while the court agreed this would meet his academic needs, this was not the only factor: the court also had to consider the potential disruption, as well as the possible impact on the boy’s personality, confidence and self-esteem. On that point, the court gave considerable weight to the fact that the boy himself wanted to stay at his current school. It also heard that he had sent a text to his father, complaining that there were “too many changes” in his life, and asking that his school and friends not change.

Ultimately, after concluding that the emotional/social disruption might outweigh any academic benefit, the court declined to order that the boy be switched. The mother had not met the onus of showing the boy’s best interests would be served by the transfer; there was insufficient evidence to address how his needs might be accommodated at the current school versus how he might benefit from the gifted program.
The court also ordered an independent assessment of the boy, with the focus being how his best interests might be served by attending the gifted program. The court also cautioned:

My decision however should not be viewed by the Father as a victory. I want to make it clear to [the boy’s] parents that in my view it is extremely unfortunate, that once [the boy] was identified as a gifted learner, and accepted into a gifted program, that the positions of the parties became polarized immediately. Whatever their motivations, there is no evidence of the parents attempting to work together to determine what in fact is in [the boy’s] best interests in light of this new and important information. … Unfortunately, although I have no doubt both parents love [the boy] very much, they clearly forgot that they must put their differences aside and focus only on his best interests. …

There is very little the court can do if the parties insist on dealing with this issue in a high conflict manner. A final decision will be made by the trial judge. I urge them however, to consider [the boy] and what is best for [the boy].

For the full text of the decision, see:

Askalan v. Taleb, 2012 ONSC 4746 (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

Can Private School Be a Necessary and Reasonable Child Expense?

LCS

Can Private School Be a Necessary and Reasonable Child Expense?
In one interesting Ontario case recently, the court found that private school tuition was a reasonable and necessary expense for the two children of separated parents, despite the fact that it represented a “huge proportion” of the post-tax income for the family.

The couple met in 1995, married in 2003, and had three children together. The two youngest currently attended Lycée Français private school, and were able to do so on a reduced-fee basis since their mother was herself a teacher and enjoyed a tuition discount as part of her employment benefits.

Prior to separation, the parents tended to live beyond their means, and the financial strain contributed to the breakdown of their marriage. After they split up in 2012, the mother had custody of the children; in the context of requesting support from the father, she asked him to help pay for their ongoing private school fees. She pointed out that since the family had always sent the children to private school when they were together, they should continue to do so after they split up.

The father resisted, pointing out that he was no longer earning at the same level of income he had enjoyed during the relationship, mainly because post-separation he had been forced to suspend operation of his home-based business when the mother took sole possession of the matrimonial home as the parent with custody. And with his income now greatly reduced – and since there were now two separate households to keep financially afloat – private school tuition was not a reasonable “special expense” (as that term is defined under s. 7 of the federal Child Support Guidelines, which governs parents’ support obligations). The father also pushed to have the matrimonial home sold, so that he could resume his business and use the assets to upgrade his equipment; the mother objected to the sale on the basis that the children needed the stability of a familiar home and neighborhood.

The court was asked to resolve the dispute. It began by providing an overall positive assessment of both parties, as follows:
Both impressed me as decent, hardworking people who want the best for their children and whose worst failings may well have been a tendency to live somewhat beyond their means in order to provide their children with a decent standard of living and in particular a good education.

With that said, the court promptly ordered the matrimonial home to be sold, reasoning as follows:

I accept [the father’s] evidence that he requires new equipment to be competitive in his business and that without the cash from the sale of the home, he has no way to obtain it. Any disruption that the children might experience in moving from this home will be offset by the increased financial security of the family and particularly their father’s ability to re-establish his own business, earn more money, pay more child support and contribute to their tuition fees.

As for the private school tuition itself, under the Guidelines the court had to consider considered whether the fees were necessary and reasonable in the circumstances.

In this case, it was clear that during the marriage both parents agreed that a private school education was to be given a high priority, even though it was always a stretch for them. As such, it met the test of being “necessary” for this particular family.

However, whether the fees were considered “reasonable” depended on several things. Unless the matrimonial home was sold, the father’s income would remain around the $60,000 mark and even the reduced tuition of $10,000 amounted to a large proportion of after-tax income. However, since the court ordered the home to be sold, the financial impact would be different: While stopping short of concluding that private school tuition was reasonable for this family generally – or that it was automatically a necessary and reasonable expense for other families – the court found that all things considered the combination of the reduced tuition fees and the newly-available capital (ear-marked to fund the father’s return to operating the business) would bring the fees within the realm of what was reasonable for these particular parents in their unique circumstances.

The court accordingly ordered the mother and father to share the private school tuition at levels that were proportionate to their respective incomes.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Honorat v. Jean-Paul, 2014 ONSC 6895

 

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

Kid Asks Estranged Dad’s Parent for Private School Tuition

lakefiekd

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.