Issues related to child support usually arise when parents are trying to determine how much child support one of them should have to pay following a separation or divorce. Rather than looking towards the future, retroactive child support is meant to provide the parent who receives support with money they weren’t given by the parent who had to pay. In most cases we see dealing with retroactive support, one of the parents willingly ignored a support order. However, an interesting decision recently issued by the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta looks at whether retroactive support should be ordered when a parent said they didn’t know they had a child.
When did the father become aware of the child?
The mother said she took a pregnancy test in the company of the father in September 2018. She said that shortly after the test confirmed she was pregnant, the father moved out of the home they shared together. She said the father announced the pregnancy to their friends before they separated, and that he would have known a daughter was born through common friends.
The father told the court that the child was conceived after the parties reconciled following an initial separation. They were only together for eight weeks during this time. He said the mother did not notify him of the birth of the child until the fall of 2018, at which time he began making voluntary child support payments.
The mother asked the court to award $30,000 in retroactive child support, raising the question of whether “birth awareness” had been achieved prior to 2018.
Was the father aware of the child?
The court determined the facts to be that while the father was aware of the pregnancy, the couple separated in the early weeks following the discovery. The court found the father was not notified of the birth of the child until the child was over three years old. While the father might have heard about the birth of the child through other means, the court was critical of the “radio silence” from the mother for 3.5 years.
The court looked at other cases that discussed “birth awareness” that did not award retroactive child support in situations where the father did not know a child had been born, and therefore could not have engaged in blameworthy conduct.
By applying those facts to this case, the court found that the father was only responsible for paying child support once the mother told him about the baby having been born. This led to an award of just over $5,000 in retroactive support.
Following a divorce or separation, it can be difficult to get back on firm financial footing. Support claims can be further complicated if one spouse is self-employed, a full-time caregiver, or has significant offshore assets. Our lawyers know how to gather evidence, build a persuasive case, and fight for your rights and the rights of your children. Whether in the courtroom or at the negotiating table, we are diligent advocates on behalf of our clients.
If you have questions about spousal or child support rights or obligations, call HMC Lawyers at 1-800-480-3534 or contact us online. We represent clients primarily in Calgary and surrounding areas.