There are many factors that can contribute to what amount of child support one parent may have to pay to another following a separation or divorce. There are both provincial and federal child support guidelines which help dictate how much a parent should pay based on factors such as income, while also addressing items such as special expenses, costs for activities, education are to be contributed to. A recent case before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice looked at some of these.

Background

The parties had reached a separation agreement in 2003. 13 years later, the mother filed a statement of arrears to initiate enforcement of child support obligations through the Family Responsibility Officer. At the time of the trial, the two children were 23-years old (Sarah) and a week shy of 20-years-old (Emily).

The separation agreement required the father to pay $600 per month in child support until “the child ceases to reside with the wife.” He did this for seven years, at which time Sarah began to live with them. As a result he reduced his child support payments by 50%. Five years following that, Emily also moved in with him and he stopped paying support all together.

Both of the children were having trouble transitioning into adulthood, experiencing problems with school or the law. While Sarah was an adult, Emily, who later returned to live with her mother, planned to return to school, which means she could still qualify for child support if enrolled full-time.

Did Emily re-qualify as a child?

The mother admitted that she did not pay any support to the father while the children lived with him, arguing that he had simply not asked. When Emily returned to live with her mother in the summer of 2016 she enrolled in an alternative co-op program to finish high school, and eventually obtained a full time paid co-op placement.

While a return to school can trigger a person to return to child status, there were no records whether the co-op program was always full time, but the court found that her completion of the program’s credit requirements qualified her as a child during her time in the program starting in September, 2016. Her time working in a paid co-op position, however, was not as easy to determine since there was no indication of what Emily’s income was at this time. While Emily had enrolled in college in September 2017, the court could not determine how heavy hear class load was, with the mother saying she had dropped some classes. The court determined Emily could not qualify as a child during this period.

Ultimately, Emily was only found to be a child for the purposes of child support while she was earning high school credits.

Emily’s Section 7 Expenses

The mother had submitted an “exhaustive” list of section 7 expenses for Emily, including college costs. However, with no indication of Emily’s income, or possible bursaries, subsidies, or tuition adjustments, the court could not determine what should be paid. The mother also submitted Section 7 expenses relating to Emily’s graduation from grade 12, including a haircut and nails. The court did not find this to count as section 7 expenses.

Criminal defense expenses

Emily was arrested in 2016 for driving under the influence and possession of narcotics. The mother paid over $10,000 to help her defend her charges as well as other costs associated with the crime and reinstatement of her drivers’ license. The father argued that the mother did not consult with him about whether they should pay for Emily’s mistake, stating he warned her about drinking and driving, and that it was an important lesson for her to learn. Regardless of the father’s argument, the court found that criminal defense costs could not count towards section 7 expenses, either.

If you have questions about your rights and those of your children following separation or divorce, contact Gelman & Associates. We empower  our clients to make informed decisions about the future of their families. We give all prospective clients a comprehensive family law kit during their initial consultation, as well as a copy of our firm’s handbook on separation and divorce. This information is full of resources that will help you understand and navigate the difficult and often complicated separation and divorce process. We can be reached by phone Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Call us at (844) 769-0737 or 1-844-736-0200, or contact us online for an initial consultation.