Lifestyle choices are difficult in all families, and become even more so when the parents are separated or divorced. These difficulties are compounded when those choices come with associated financial costs, since issues can arise as to how they should be allocated and whether the costs are reasonable.
This was the issue in Cantave v. Cantave, where the parents had two boys, both of whom were now teens and both of whom – according to the court – were “interested in and had some proficiency in soccer.” The father, who had himself played, coached, and refereed soccer over the years, felt that the soccer training opportunities were better in France.
With this in mind, prior to their separation the couple agreed that the father would take an unpaid 1-year leave of absence from his $80,000-per-year federal government job, so that he could move temporarily to France in September 2010 with both boys. This would allow the eldest son to join a soccer academy to which he had been accepted, and would allow the youngest to be exposed to a higher level of soccer training in that country. The plan was for the three of them to return to live in Ottawa at the end of that school year.
Meanwhile, the mother announced her separation from the father shortly after he and boys moved, in mid-September of 2010.
The couple negotiated a interim written separation agreement in which they agreed the boys would stay with the father for a second year in France, but would return to Ottawa in June 2012. The mother, who was a lawyer earning $150,000 with the government, agreed to pay support of $4,000 per month.
However during the 2011 school term, and contrary to this agreement, the father indicated that he would not be returning to Ottawa with the boys in 2012 as promised. He claimed that they wanted to stay there to train in soccer for another year at least. He put some finality to this unilateral decision by formally opting not to return from his leave of absence, effectively quitting his job.
The mother asked the court to enforce the separation agreement in which the father agreed to return, and to reduce the monthly support to $1,000 immediately, with some incremental increases in subsequent years. While she accepted her legal obligation to pay child support, she objected to having to pay a disproportionate share due to the father’s unilateral decision to quit his job and move the boys to France.
The court considered these circumstances, and essentially agreed with the mother. The father’s decision to unilaterally quit a job that paid him $80,000, and to his refusal to honour the contract requiring him to return with the boys to Ottawa, were essentially unilateral lifestyle choices that the mother should not be expected to subsidize. The court wrote:
If it is considered necessary due to soccer aspirations, that one or both boys remain in France for that purpose, these would not be the first 16 and 15 year olds who live away from home to pursue an interest in hockey, ballet or soccer.
[The father] is making decisions which have financial implications. It is unrealistic after two years to conclude that [the mother] should be fully responsible for such decisions by her husband, especially when they had agreed that he and the boys would return to Canada one year ago.
The court therefore calculated the support payment payable by the mother by pretending that the father earned $50,000, rather than $12,000 in annual income he claimed.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Cantave v. Cantave, (2013), 2013 ONSC 4082, 2013 CarswellOnt 8644, Kane J. (Ont. S.C.J.) http://canlii.ca/t/fzdsj
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