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Posts from the ‘Step-Children’ 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.

If a Biological Parent is Paying Child Support, Does a Step-Parent Still Have to Pay?

If a Biological Parent is Paying Child Support, Does a Step-Parent Still Have to Pay?

In Stetler v. Stetler, the mother and had a child with a man (the biological father). The mother then married a second man (the step-father), and the relationship lasted eight years before they separated. During that entire time, the step-father treated the girl as his own, and supporter her financially as part of his role in the new family.

Meanwhile, the mother was still receiving child support from the girl’s biological father, even though he had never seen or even met his daughter.

When the mother and the step-father eventually separated, the step-father took the opportunity to deny having any obligation to support the girl, who was now 13 years old. He bolstered this position by pointing out that she no longer wanted to see him after he separated from the mother. (Apparently, however, this estrangement could have been remedied had the step-father apologized to the girl for a particular incident, which he stubbornly refused to do).

Despite the continued payment of child support from the biological father, the mother brought a court application claiming child support from the step-father as well. Among the legal issues was whether in these circumstances the step-father should still be obligated post-separation, particularly in light of his evident intention during the marriage to support her as a parent would.

The court concluded that he was. As the court put it:

The [step-father] seeks relief on support for [the child] because of what he calls “double dipping”, represented by the support currently being paid by the biological father. Gratuitously, he argues that [the child] chose not to see him and he shouldn’t have to pay support because of the biological father’s support. … With respect to [the child], I am guided by s.5 of the Child Support Guidelines.

Where the spouse against whom a child support order is sought stands in the place of a parent for a child, the amount of a child support order is, in respect of that spouse, such amount as the court considers appropriate, having regard to these guidelines and any other parent’s legal duty to support the child.

The unseen biological father of [the child] has been fulfilling his obligation to the letter of the law the whole while. This does not give the [the step-father] a free ride. The [step-father] has an obligation to support this child and in my view, the appropriate order is set out in the Supreme Court of Canada case, Chartier v. Chartier, … which says this:

The contribution to be paid by the biological parent should be assessed independently of the obligations of the step-parent. The obligation to support a child arises as soon as that child is determined to be “a child of the marriage”. The obligation of parents for a child are all joint and several. The issue of contribution is one between all of the parents who have obligations toward the child, whether they are biological parents or step-parents; it should not affect a child.

In the end, the court ordered the step-father to pay one-third of the total child support owing for the girl, with the unseen biological father to continue paying the remaining two-thirds.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Stetler v. Stetler, 2012 ONSC 4466 (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 RussellAlexander.com

Biological Father Responds to Court Documents by Scribbling “a Very Offensive Word” – Can His Consent to Adoption be Dispensed With?

offensive

Biological Father Responds to Court Documents by Scribbling “a Very Offensive Word” – Can His Consent to Adoption be Dispensed With?

Under what circumstances will a court trump a biological parent’s legal right to give consent to the adoption of his or her child by another person?

This was the issue raised in a recent Ontario decision. The step-father of the 10-year-old girl had married her mother (who had sole custody), after dating her for about five years and living with her for four. He had always treated the girl as his own, and had supported her financially, emotionally, and physically. He participated in her education, made medical decisions for her, and they shared a deep emotional connection. Plus, the girl had always viewed the stepfather as her parent and called him “dad” of her own accord.

In stark contrast, the girl’s biological father had absolutely no relationship with her: Not only had he not seen her for the past 8.5 years, he had never even asked to do so. Child support was something he paid only involuntarily. He had been verbally and physically abusive to the mother throughout their 5-year relationship, which started when she was just 17 years old.

After being advised repeatedly that the stepfather wanted to adopt the 10-year-old girl as his own, the biological father contacted the mother through Facebook to suggest that he would give his consent in exchange a $10,000 fee.

Instead of paying up, the stepfather simply applied to the court, asking for an order that the biological father’s consent to the proposed adoption could be dispensed with.

The court readily agreed.

For one thing, even at her current young age the girl herself had consented to the adoption, and was keen for it to proceed. She was very family-oriented, and – since the stepfather and the girl’s mother had a 3-year old together, and were expecting another child – it made her anxious and distressed that the rest of her family and siblings had a different last name. That last name was really her only tie to her biological father, since she had no recollection of him.

In light of the biological father’s obvious disinterest in the girl, and the stepfather’s unfailingly positive involvement, it was clearly in the girls’ best interests to grant the order, the court found.

Incidentally, the biological father did nothing to help his own case: despite being properly served with the stepfather’s court documents, he failed to even file a response and did not appear in court. Indeed, he returned the court documents in a less-than-mature and uncooperative manner, as the court explained:

He apparently opened the envelope, read the contents, scribbled randomly on one of the pages of an affidavit; wrote a very offensive word in bold letters on one of the pages, and then re-sealed and sent the envelope back to the [mother’s] counsel marked “Return to Sender”.

For the full text of the decision, see:

S.M.L.L. v. J.K.M., [2016] O.J. No. 2519, 2016 ONSC 3198

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 RussellAlexander.com

Who Pays Child Support in Ontario?


Wednesday’s Video Clip: Who Pays Child Support in Ontario?

Parents have a legal responsibility to support their dependent children to the extent that they can. In this video, we discuss who is responsible to pay child support and why.

How is Shared Custody Calculated? Daily? Hourly?

calculation

How is Shared Custody Calculated? Daily? Hourly?

Under the federal Child Support Guidelines, there are certain rules that apply specifically to calculating child support in cases where a “shared custody” arrangement is in place. The Guidelines define this as being those situations where a parent has access or physical custody of a child for “not less than 40 percent of the time over the course of the year”. (And note that the fact that parent with access newly hits that 40 percent mark does not mean that he or she automatically pays less child support; it means only that a court is required to take certain specified factors into account in setting support amounts in such cases).

But how is that 40 percent threshold properly determined? By counting days? Hours? Minutes?

A recent case called L. (L.) v. C. (M.) adds clarity to this precise question. The court described the problem it was being asked to consider this way:

The mother and father have both provided calendars that apply their interpretation of the access and custody order. The father, who calculates his time in days (overnights), concludes that his access time is over 40 per cent. The mother, who calculates in hours, concludes that the father’s access falls well below 40 per cent. Both parties are very aware that this 40 per cent threshold is significant. I have now calculated based on their assertions and my conclusions and clarification.

The court then turned to reviewing the process by which the 40 percent custody is to be evaluated. For one thing, it noted that the Guidelines are not clear on precisely how the calculation is to be realized, and there is no court-endorsed universal method. On the other hand, it is clear that the threshold is strict, and that a court is not entitled to “round up” in cases that are on the border.

Next, the court observed that if a “days”-based approach is used, then a parent with access must have the child in his or her care for 146 days per year. If the calculation is based on “hours”, then the 40 percent threshold lies at 3504 hours per year. The method used can make a big difference. The court wrote:

With the changes in support that can stem from proceeding under s. 9 [the Guideline’s “shared parenting” provision] and the strict setting of the 40 per cent threshold, this calculation can be extremely significant. At times, calculating in days versus hours makes just the difference that moves the access parent into a situation where they exercise 40 per cent access …. For this reason, applying the appropriate method of calculation is crucial.
The answer as to which approach to take, according to the court, may have to be determined case-by-case. The Guidelines do advocate for a flexible and robust consideration of the parents’ individual circumstances; in some (though not all) circumstances, units smaller than days may be the fairest method of determining whether the 40 percent threshold has been reached. This can include an hourly accounting of time in the right circumstances.

(And as an aside, it is important to note that the calculation is based on the time the child is in the care and control of the parent, including time spent with nannies, or at school or day care, and time that the child spends sleeping at the parent’s house, etc. It does not count that the parent is merely physically present with the child).

Here, the court used the hourly approach and determined that the child was in the mother’s custody 67.4 percent of the time, and was with the father 32.6 percent of the time. The “shared parenting” threshold of 40 percent was not met in this case.

For the full text of the decision, see:

L. (L.) v. C. (M.), 2013 ONSC 1801 http://canlii.ca/t/fwslt

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.

Does The Age of The Child Affect Child Support in Ontario?


 

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Does The Age of The Child Affect Child Support in Ontario?

In this video Shelley discusses how and when the age of the child could affect child support and the importance of income, and how the age and needs of the child  should be considered.

Top 5 Kids’ Books About Divorce

top 5

Top 5 Kids’ Books About Divorce

When parents decide to divorce, their immediate focus tends to be on the details of their separation and the impending legal processes, which include making arrangements for day-to-day living, negotiating for proper support, and agreeing on and arranging for the division of property. And although the physical care and custody of any children of the marriage is often uppermost in most parents’ minds, the psychological well-being of the children can often get temporarily overlooked.

Here are some of the best books – aimed at the children themselves – that can help them deal with this difficult period:

1. When Mom And Dad Divorce

by Emily Menendez-Aponte and R. W. Alley (Jul 21 2006)

This book, which is available both in paperback and for download on Kindle, is written in a warm and reassuring tone, and is filled with comforting messages designed to help kids understand that they are not alone. It also emphasizes the point that the future will be alright – even if it is different from what they are accustomed to.

2. Two Homes

by Claire Masurel and Kady MacDonald Denton (Jul 14 2003)

Written in a positive and matter-of-fact tone, this book has a unique slant on divorce from a kid’s point of view, by focusing on what might be gained in the process rather than lost. It underlines the benefits to children of having two loving homes, each with their own environments and advantages.

3. Dinosaurs Divorce

by Marc Brown and Laurie Krasny Brown (Sep 1 1998)

This book is written for very young children, and features lively cartoon illustrations to help convey upbeat but straightforward information about why parents divorce, how living arrangements will change, what it means to have step-parents, and whether and how to tell friends.

4. The Suitcase Kid

by Jacqueline Wilson and Vicky Ireland (Nov 9 2010)

This book, available in paperback, hardcover, audiobook, and for Kindle, tells the fictional story of Andy West, a 10-year-old girl whose parents decide to divorce. Now that they have both remarried, Andy finds herself living out of her suitcase as she is shuttled back and forth between two houses, each of which feature new routines and new family members (in the form of step-parents and step-siblings). The book illustrates many important issues that plague the children of divorce, including an intense longing for the way things used to be.

5. What In The World Do You Do When Your Parent Divorce?: A Survival Guide for Kids

by Kent Winchester and Roberta Beyer (Mar 7 2007)

With its unusual question-and-answer format, this book sensitively answers those questions that kids have about divorce: what it is, why it happens, the logistics of living arrangements, and how to deal with the strong and confusing emotions that arise for those kids who find themselves in these scenarios. It is available in both paperback and for Kindle.

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 Russell Alexander.com

Don’t Use Your Kids as Messengers

messanger

Don’t Use Your Kids as Messengers

At one stage or another, almost every set of divorcing parents will experience situations of ill-will, conflict, heated arguments, (whether verbally or by email or text), and misunderstandings between themselves. Yet in most cases these same divorcing parents must nonetheless figure out a way to effectively communicate and deal with each other on an ongoing basis, since they will remain involved in the joint upbringing of their child.

In such scenarios, there are many ways to go wrong – but one of the most devastating and harmful mistakes from the standpoint of a child’s personal and emotional development, is to have the child serve as a “messenger” between the parents.

This involves asking or depending on the child to relay messages from one parent to the other, and can include things like:

• Requesting changes to access or custody schedules (“Tell your mother I can’t pick you up on Friday night this weekend, but I’ll come at 10 a.m. on Saturday”);

• Asking the other parent to take care of school or health-related obligations (“Ask your father if he made that appointment with your pediatrician, or whether I’m supposed to do it”);

• Soliciting information about general day-to-day matters (“Ask your mom if she knows where your blue ski jacket is”).

This is unhealthy for so many reasons. For one thing, it puts the child directly in the middle of any conflict between the parents, which is never a comfortable place for any child of any age to be. And all the more so where both parents have unresolved negative feelings toward each other, and end up inadvertently (or sometimes deliberately) conveying their anger or hurt through the child.

But even if the split is amicable, a child will naturally have intense feelings about the separation or divorce, and will feel conflicted about playing go-between.

Secondly, this places a great burden on the child, in terms of ensuring that the messages that are conveyed are accurate and timely. Yet as any parent knows, children are already notorious for not fully applying their listening skills and for forgetting things at the best of times, so to burden them with the responsibility of being an accurate messenger is unfair.

Bottom line: One of the duties of being an adult is to take responsibility for your own communications. More importantly, one of the responsibilities of being a parent is to do what’s best for your children. So keep the kids out of it.

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  Russell Alexander.com

So what are your thoughts and comments about using kids as messengers?