The obligation to pay child support can be difficult for the parent responsible for paying it. The amount of child support that has to be paid by a parent is largely dependent on their income and the number of children the parties have. If someone experiences a reduction in income, they can ask the court to lower the amount of child support they pay. But it’s up to the paying party to make such a request, and they must also provide evidence that a reduction is needed. Simply avoiding paying child support does not erase one’s responsibility to pay it and missed payments will continue to build up as arrears. Just recently, Canada’s Supreme Court issued a ruling related to a father who failed to make a single voluntary child support payment and later asked the court to reduce his arrears.
Father fails to pay child support
The parents involved in the dispute were married in 1983 and were divorced in 1996. While married, they had two children, and the father was ordered to pay the mother $115 per month for child support to the mother, who was the sole decision-maker for the children.
The father failed to make any child support payments for the first two years. In 1998 he applied to the court to receive a reduction in child support. He had been totally absent in the children’s lives since the divorce, and he failed to provide any documentation to support his request. As a result, no changes were made. Following this, the father continued to ignore his child support obligations. By the time the children were grown, his arrears amounted to $170,000. This led to the father’s request to have his amount owing reduced. At trial, he was successful and the arrears were reduced to $41,642. However, this was overturned on appeal before it made its way to the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court of Canada Stresses The Importance Of Financial Disclosure
The court spent the bulk of its analysis explaining the mechanisms through which child support obligations can be altered, noting that in certain situations retroactive reductions may be appropriate. However, in this case, the court could not get past the father’s failure in communicating with the mother and the courts over all the years he failed to make payments. The court said, “It was not enough for the father to advise the mother that his income had fallen without taking any further steps, and since the father did not provide reasonable proof to allow the mother to meaningfully assess the situation, his request fell short of effective notice,” adding “His conduct shows bad faith efforts to evade the enforcement of a court order. This case provides an example of the kind of inadequate disclosure that would justify a refusal to vary back to the date of formal notice.”
Since the father gave no effective notice before the arrears stopped accumulating, he was not entitled to receive any retroactive decrease in support obligations, leaving him on the hook for the entire $170,000.
If you have questions about spousal or child support rights or obligations, call the family law team at HMC Lawyers at 1-800-480-3534 or contact us online. We represent clients primarily in Calgary and surrounding areas.