Issues around child and spousal support can be difficult to navigate during a separation or divorce, and can be made more difficult when there are challenges from one party about whether those support obligations should exist in the first place. In a recent matter heard by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, the parties were dealing with whether the father should pay child support, and if so, how much he should be required to pay as a high-income earner.
Does a stepfather owe child support?
The parties were never married, but they lived together for nine years before they separated in June 2019. They had no children together, but the mother has a child from a previous relationship. The child was four-years-old when the parties began to live together. The child, who is now 15-years-old has only had limited contact with her biological father and has always lived with the mother.
The mother contends that even though the father is not the child’s biological parent, he has acted in loco parentis (which is Latin for “in the place of the parent”) for the child. Because of this, she seeks ongoing child support.
The mother currently has no source of income
Prior to their relationship, the mother worked as a corrections officer with the Government of Alberta. She suffered an injury in 2012 while at work and received disability benefits until 2017. At that time she left her position with the government in order to work for a company partially owned by the father. She went on sick leave from this position shortly before the parties separated. She was denied benefits and currently has no income.
The father’s position
The father contends he did not ever act in loco parentis to the child and should not have to pay child support. He also contends that the mother does not meet the requirements set out in the Family Law Act to be eligible for partner support.
That said, the father did make an offer to pay $3,000 per month in unspecified support.
The court noted that the mother had some inconsistencies in her statements. She claimed that the father acted in loco parentis for the child, but she also claimed she was solely responsible for decisions around things such as activities. There were also different accounts about how much time she spent with her biological father. However, since the father already made an offer to pay unspecified support, the court did not have to make a determination on the matter of loco parentis. Instead, it only had to determine the quantum of support that should be paid.
While the mother may currently be out of work, the father has considerable income. There were different figures provided to the court, but an imputed income of $350,000 was imputed by the court.
The court found that the father would normally be obligated to pay $2,998 in child support, but this could be offset by taking into account the $1,900 already being paid by the biological father. The court determined the father should pay $1,500 per month in child support.
When it came time to determine partner support, the mother stated she needed $18,000 per month. In looking at support ranges, someone with the father’s income would normally be required to pay $8,400-$10,200, which is well under the amount requested by the mother. However, the court found her budget to be unreasonable and determined that she had expenses of about $3,000. The court set partner support at $6,000 per month.
The experienced family law team at HMC Lawyers offers strategic legal advice for a wide range of family law issues, including those related to child and spousal support. We work with many clients who are classified as high-income earners and are aware of the complexities involved when high-net-worth relationships come to an end. To make an appointment with a member of our team, contact us online or by phone at 403-269-7220.