Family Judge Says: “The Guidelines are Not a Price List”
Many of or previous Blog posts have illustrated how the provincial Child Support Guidelines and its federal counterpart, the federal Child Support Guidelines work in various factual contexts, to guide parents and judges in determining how much child support each separated or divorcing parent should pay.
In the past year alone, we have given examples of how special expenses such as a child’s sports or extracurricular activities are dealt with; how self-employment income is accounted for in the calculations, and even how the Guidelines are to be used to calculate child support for adult children.
What should be abundantly clear from those many illustrations, is that when the matter of child support is placed before a judge, the Guidelines are merely a starting point for what becomes a complex mathematical calculation that takes numerous factors into account. This is why it’s often perplexing for separating parents to try to determine what support amounts are fair when they don’t have the help of a lawyer to guide them.
The recent case called Vidal v. Dunn is an excellent example of the complexity and number of different that this exercise entails. As we chronicled in prior Blogs on this case, the parents had a raft of child support-related disputes between them, including the question of whether their troubled teenaged daughter’s criminal defence bills – totalling over $10,000 – were considered “special or extraordinary expenses” to be shared by the parents, and whether their 20-year-old daughter was still considered to be a “child” for the purposes of being eligible for support.
In the context of making a ruling on this last issue, the court noted that both the federal Divorce Act and the Ontario Family Law Act apply the Guidelines, and both have comparable child support objectives.
But the court went on to make an interesting observation about the nature of the Guidelines themselves: For one thing, they are more complex than a fixed-price menu, but also not amenable to “short cuts” even by a court. As the court wrote:
The authority to order further child support is found in legislation. The Child Support Guidelines were intended to help separated families set child support in a fair and predictable way. The Guidelines are not a price list. It can be very complicated, especially for adult children. Entitlement to child support is a prerequisite before determining quantum under the Child Support Guidelines. The statutory path is mapped out. The court cannot customize legislation with short cuts.
In a very recent case called Henry v. Boyer, the court emphasized the point made in Vidal v. Dunn that the Guidelines are aimed specifically at helping “separated families” to set child support both fairly and predictably. But there are many variables in that calculation, a point that newly-separated parents should keep in mind when trying to forge the path forward towards a divorce. It’s always a good idea to seek the advice of an experienced Family lawyer.
For the full text of the decisions, see: