Father Says Kid’s Karate is OK, but MMA is Not; Court Rules on Special Expenses
As readers of my Blog will know, under the rules relating to child support in Ontario, parents are obliged to financially support their children, and this duty comes to the forefront when the parents are separated or divorced.
However, there are actually two distinct aspects of that mandatory child support: 1) The one for basic support that is set out in the Child Support Guidelines (CSGs); and 2) the “special or extraordinary expenses” that are allowed for in s. 7 of those same Guidelines.
“Special or extraordinary expenses” are defined to include items such as:
- Child care expenses incurred as a result of the custodial parent’s employment, illness, disability or education or training for employment
- The portion of the medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child
- Certain health-related expenses
- Extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education or for any other educational programs that meet the child’s particular needs
- Expenses for post-secondary education
- Extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities
If one parent refuses to agree to pay for a particular special expense, the other parent may have to apply to the court to have a judge make a determination, the legal test being whether it is both “reasonable” and “necessary” in the circumstances.
This was the situation in the very recent case of Newstead v. Hachey, where the court considered whether the child’s Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training – which the mother had unilaterally enrolled him in – was justifiably a section 7 special expense. Although the child was also enrolled in Karate, the father thought the MMA training was inappropriate because of its violent focus. He continued to help pay for it under protest, but asked the court to decide. The court explained:
While the husband is not happy with certain expenses being incurred by the wife for the children without his consultation or approval, he has not balked at paying. … He did not agree with the wife’s decision to put [the son] into Mixed Martial Arts. His view is that while Karate provided a benefit to the child, MMA is different as the only objective of the sport is to hurt or subdue the opponent. He is afraid that sends the wrong message to [the son], who has had behavioral issues which times included aggression. Still, despite his protests, the husband is not refusing to contribute to these expenses.
The court pointed out that section 7 of the Guidelines does require the parents to consult or agree to the MMA lessons, but it was a factor the court could take into account in assessing reasonableness:
Section 7 does not specifically require prior consultation for allowable expenses; the test rather is that the expense must be reasonable and necessary. Section 7(1) of the CSGs says “the court may … provide for an amount”. The relief, as such, is discretionary. It follows that a failure or refusal by a claiming parent to discuss the expense with the other parent in advance could bear on the court’s exercise of its discretion in determining whether the expense is reasonable or, for that matter, whether it is necessary.
In the end, the court essentially allowed for the MMA expense to be shared in the overall support calculations, but admonished the wife that she could have those kinds of costs denied in the future simply because she failed to consult with the father beforehand. The court said:
I encourage the parties and in particular the wife to have these discussions in advance, and simply caution both parties that how they approach future expenditures could impact whether they would be allowed by the court if contested.
For the full text of the decision, see: