Mother Claims 6-Year Delay in Seeking Child Support Due to Father’s Mental Health Issues – But Court Doesn’t Buy It
In Williams v. Rezonja, the couple’s relationship started after a “blind date” and resulting in their having a child together. They got engaged, but never did marry.
Although their relationship was apparently at first, it quickly deteriorated after the child was born. The woman said the man started to exhibit bizarre behaviour, which she said came “out of nowhere”. He stopped interacting with her and the child, and she could never be sure whether he was going to work at his well-paying job or not. He told other people she was “out to get him”, and sometimes slept on the couch in his clothes, with his keys in his pocket.
When the woman met her future mother-in-law, they agreed that he should be assessed. After this, he stopped coming communicating with her or coming home. He stayed with his mother, who conceded that he had been admitted to a mental health facility for a few days. Soon after, the woman got a letter from is lawyer, advising that she needed to move out of the house that they shared, and which was in the man’s name.
The woman – who was unemployed at the time – did move out as requested. She took the child with her, and found a job in order to support herself. She eventually claimed child support from the man – but not until about 6 years later.
The court heard evidence that although she knew where to reach the man, the woman chose not to ask him for child support for all those years because she felt it was “unsafe” for her and the child to be anywhere near him. Although he had not threatened her verbally or physically, she said she had concerns for safety and if he was possibly unwell felt she did not want him involved with the child at all.
The man’s version of events was that the woman ended the relationship, and that he was depressed for a period of time. He had indeed been admitted to a psychiatric unit for 2 to 3 weeks, and was off work for 2 years, but said that he was now healthy. He believed that his problems were directly caused by the woman’s treatment of him.
The court did a balanced evaluation of the evidence, considering all the relevant factors, including: the reasons for the woman’s delay; the conduct of the man; the circumstances of the child; and any hardship a retroactive award might cause the man. No single factor is decisive, it pointed out.
Next, the court began by pointing out that as parents, both parties had an obligation to ensure their child receives appropriate support in a timely manner.
Here, the woman’s stated reason for delay were unconvincing; the court found she exaggerated her fear of the man and the potential for retaliation, and was certainly sophisticated enough to have sought legal advice. In short, the court found that she did not pursue child support because she was prepared to “go it alone”.
Turning to the man, the court found that he was blameworthy to some extent, too. He appears to have concluded, based on the fact that mother was not pursing him for support, that he was “home-free” and would not be on the hook financially. As the court put it: “There was an obvious incentive to continue to ignore that which he otherwise knew was his legal obligation.”
With all this in mind, the court concluded that this was not a case for retroactive child support for the full six years. The mother had clearly demonstrated that she wanted nothing to do with the father and was prepared to raise the child on her own. The court did, however, award support for the period starting December 1, 2012, which is the month following the date of the woman’s court application.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Williamson v. Rezonja, 2014 ONCJ 72 (CanLII)
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