bLAWgazine: You can run but you can’t hide from child support

Quinn M RossQuinn Ross is one of eight lawyers at The Ross Firm. Quinn practises in the areas of real estate, corporate/commercial law and estate law. He also has broad experience in criminal, administrative and civil litigation where he has appeared before the Ontario Court of Justice, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Divisional Court of Ontario, the Court of Appeal for Ontario and various administrative tribunals.


rossfirmchildsupportNancy Burchill and Colin Roberts fell in love and moved in together in 1991.  In 1992, Nancy gave birth to their love child.  By 1995, love had left, along with Nancy and their son.

By 1997, Nancy and Colin had agreed to a court order giving sole custody of the boy to Nancy, with Colin paying $1,250 a month in child support.  That figure was based on Colin’s reported annual income of $90,000 and the Federal Child Support Guidelines that determined the amount payable by Colin as child support.


Shortly after the order was obtained, Nancy and Colin met in a coffee shop and Nancy agreed to accept $737 a month child support for their 5-year-old son instead of $1,250.  One can only hope Colin paid for the coffee.

The years rolled by with Colin continuing to pay $737 for just over 14 years and in December 2010, Colin advised Nancy that he would be terminating child support the following February, 2011, when their son turned 19.  The 19-year-old young man was enrolled in University at the time.

Could Colin stop paying for his son, who was not yet part of the work force, just because he turned 19?  Nancy’s lawyer assured her that Colin still had a legal duty to pay child support.

Once an action was started to force Colin to help pay his fair share, Nancy and her lawyer discovered that Colin had failed to disclose that his income had soared from the original $90,000, to as high as $195,000 a year.

There was also evidence to show that over those 14 years, while Nancy and their son were racking up debt to meet their reasonable expenses, including education expenses, Colin was salting away savings in his RRSPs.

Nancy asked the court to make an order that Colin be ordered to pay the arrears of Guidelines Child Support from the time his income took off in 2006 up to the present.  If the court made that order, it would cost Colin $55,000 in arrears.

Hold on just a second, Colin argued.  Are you implying I’m a deadbeat dad?  Do you remember that cup of coffee back in 1997?  You said you would accept $737 a month for child support and that’s what I have been paying all these 14 years.  A deal’s a deal!

You have to admit, that does make sense.

Colin went on to tell the court he was unaware of any duty to disclose an increase in his income and besides, Nancy could have asked for more money if she had wanted to . . . and she chose not to.

The court took another point of view.  The court said that when you are talking child support, there is an obligation to disclose any material change in your income, and an increase from $90,000 a year to almost $200,000 is definitely material.

Now, if Colin had disclosed his increased income and Nancy had done nothing about it at the time she learned of the increase that would have been a different story.  But Colin, for obvious reasons kept the information to himself.  Colin explained to the court that he had kept mum on the delicate subject of his increased income because . . .  he did not want to “rock the boat.”  Indeed.

The court found that “.  . . it is simply inescapable that [Colin’s son] could not have enjoyed a standard of living commensurate with what he would have enjoyed if [Colin] had been paying support in accordance with his income.  In short, [Colin] ended up with at least $55,000 in his pocket which should have been utilized to support his son.  This sum would have provided many of the benefits which children of more well-to-do parents are fortunate to enjoy;  it would have alleviated the costs of food, clothing and other necessaries which growing children inevitably require; and, laterally, it would have assisted their son in meeting his university expenses.”

Lessons to Be Learned:

1)    With the right lawyer, a parent can run but they can’t hide from their obligations of paying proper child support.

2)    There are always two sides to any story and you need to find a law firm who believes in telling your story . . . convincingly.

Written by on February 25, 2013 in Quinn Ross - No comments

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