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Posts tagged ‘Scarrow v. Cowan’

Is $6,000 for Kid’s Braces Reasonable for a Middle-Class Family?

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Is $6,000 for Kid’s Braces Reasonable for a Middle-Class Family?

In Ontario, the concept of child support involves the payment by parents of a child’s basic, necessary day-to-day expenses. However, the law also provides for what are known as “special” or “extraordinary expenses”: these encompass child-related costs and expenses that are not strictly “necessary” (in the sense that food, shelter, and education may be), but rather relate to more out-of-the-ordinary items. They can include items such as music lessons, sports activities, extracurricular school trips or other educational opportunities, and similar expenses that only infrequently or on a one-time basis, but which are nonetheless considered as beneficial to the particular child and part of his or her reasonable expenses when viewed against the family’s overall means and lifestyle. The question of whether any particular expense of this nature is reasonable will vary from case to case, and from family to family.

Against this background, and given the broad and varying nature of what can constitute an “extraordinary expense”, it is unsurprising that separated and divorced parents often disagree about whether such expenses are justified, and often have to go to court to settle their disputes.

This was precisely the situation in a recent case called Scarrow v. Cowan. The couple, who had been married less than 10 years when they divorced, had one child together who lived with the mother ever since. Although the father had been paying court-ordered support all along, he and the child had had little communication since 2010.

In September of 2012, the mother agreed to have the 17-year old child receive orthodontic treatment, at a cost of about $6,000. When the mother lost her $25,000-a-year job in January of 2013, and asked the father to reimburse her for one-half of the costs. The father, who was earning about $50,000 per year, claimed the orthodontic treatment was unreasonable in light of the couple’s middle-class lifestyle, their other child-related obligations, and their respective financial means.

The court considered the situation. First of all, the Child Support Guidelines clearly designated orthodontic treatment could be an “extraordinary expense” for which the parents are responsible in the right circumstances. Next, despite the father’s assertion that the mother’s decision to arrange for orthodontic work was unwise in all the circumstances, the court found it was a reasonable one at the time the decision was made, since the mother could not have foreseen that she would lose her job. Finally, the court was mindful that if the child did not receive orthodontic care now, it might result in serious future health consequences for her as an adult.

The court ordered the father to contribute toward the costs of the orthodontic work at a rate of $125 per month, until his half was paid.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Scarrow v. Cowan, 2014 ONSC 955 (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, please  visit us.

Are You Litigating for the Right Reasons?

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Are You Litigating for the Right Reasons?

I was struck by a comment that appears in the recent Ontario decision in Scarrow v. Cowan, 2014 ONSC 955 (CanLII). The court, in setting out the basic facts in the dispute between separated parents, pointed out that they had a “very special daughter” together, who had been chosen for an elite European exchange program. In lamenting the fact that the father’s relationship with the 17-year old daughter had broken down entirely, the court declared the situation “undeniably tragic”. Even worse, not only did the father blame the daughter herself for this state of affairs, but he was going the extra step by deliberately hindering and obstructing the mother’s legitimate claims for child support. Among other things, the mother had been forced to go to court to try to obtain support arrears the father had not paid.

In this context, the court observed:

I cannot help but ask whether this motion would even have been brought had the [father] maintained the relationship that he should have had with [the daughter]; financial issues are often the only way that a parent with a failed relationship with a child can express his or her frustration.

This comment by the court prompted us to reflect on some of the things that we see motivating clients in the various decisions they must make in the context of managing their own family law matters.

On this blog we have previously written or discussed that some clients insist on using the family courts and dispute resolution process as a vehicle for revenge on their former spouses.

What’s Left?” : a situation where the child is alienated from the other parent, reference Harvey Brownstone and “That Toxic Tug-of-War”.

This kind of approach is never a good idea. The choice to “dig in your heels” and drag your former spouse (and often your kids as well) through needless motions and steps in the dispute-resolution process only means that the whole experience will only become unduly prolonged, not to mention unnecessarily expensive.

The solution is very simple: Avoid using the family process for hidden motives or nefarious purposes. Not only is this a waste of your time and money, but also the outcome – whether strategically, financially, or emotionally – is almost never as good as you think it will be.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Scarrow v. Cowan, 2014 ONSC 955 (CanLII) http://canlii.ca/t/g34rn

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.

 

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