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A Parent’s Actions Cause the BCSC to Cancel Child Support Obligations

Date: 05 Mar, 2014

Child support is the right of the child. The obligation to pay child support is an obligation the parent paying support owes their child. This is based on the idea that parents have a responsibility to pay for their children. A parent with custody of the child is typically already paying for the day to day needs of the child. A parent without custody can expect to pay child support in line with their income and the number of children they have. Generally speaking, the situation of the other parent is immaterial in determining whether a child support obligation exists and how much is owed.

In Hughes v Hughes[1], the BC Supreme Court canceled a father’s child support requirements because of the actions that the child’s mother took. This circumstance is very unusual because it seems to fly in the face of the idea that child support is the right of the child. In Hughes, the father was appealing a decision on his application to have his accumulated arrears of child support canceled. At the time of the appeal, the father owed over $32,000 in accumulated arrears of child support. He stopped paying after the mother took the child to Italy, denying him the reasonable access he was entitled to. Throughout 2009 the mother failed to return the child to Vancouver. She was found in contempt of court twice, ordered to pay $1500 in fines and costs, ordered imprisoned for 10 days and a warrant for her arrest for breaching the custody order was issued. However, she never returned, paid the fines or spent time in jail.

In 2010 the father stopped paying child support and the amount owing began accumulating. The mother remained in Italy and repeatedly refused to return the child to Canada. The BC court awarded the father sole custody of the child even though the mother was still in Italian. For this reason, the BC court still required the father to pay support. Child support is, after all, an obligation to pay for your children. The idea was that the child support would prevent the child’s mother from saying she couldn’t afford to return the child to Canada. This never happened and the father refused to pay. The mother continued to show contempt to the BC courts. Therefore, the BC Supreme Court took the unusual step of canceling the child support obligations because of the actions that the mother had taken.

This case highlights an unusual set of facts that led the court to cancel child support payments because of the actions of the parent. This contradicts the idea of child support being an independent responsibility that the parent owes to their child. This case is noteworthy because it is so unique. The lesson that the BC Supreme Court is trying to send is that repeatedly showing contempt for court orders and not complying with decisions can lead to a loss of child support.

Child support matters are often complex and emotionally charged. This reality is only increased when one parent decides to violate a court order on custody and access rights. The lawyers at Dale Streiman Law LLP have over three decades of experience dealing with these issues. They are experts in all facets family law. They can help you with your child support issues in an effective and efficient manner.

For information on child support in Canada, please visit the Ministry of The Attorney General’s Child Support Page at http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/divorce/support/default.asp or the Dale Streiman Law LLP section on child support at child-support-and-changing-the-amount-of-support