Lack of Communication Does Not Release A Parent From Support Obligations

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Raising a child when one is separated or divorced from the other party can complicate matters that are normally fairly easy to resolve, and at other times make a normally complicated matter that much more difficult to work through. A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice shows that communication between parents is essential, even if the courts are otherwise involved.

Child is an adult but needs ongoing support according to mother

The parents involved in the matter have a daughter who turned 18 in March 2021. She has lived with the mother since the parties separated. The child is currently completing grade 12 and plans to attend Carleton University in the Fall. At the time of the trial, she was also working part-time at a coffee shop.

The child has a dual diagnosis of ADHD and bipolar disorder and the mother took the position that she is entitled to receive child support until she starts her post-secondary education and that in the meantime,  there needs to be a discussion between her and the father about the child’s plans, the program, the availability of student assistance, and living expenses.

Father says child support should end when high school does

The father told the court that his child support obligations should conclude at the end of June when the school year ends, and if she does plan to attend post-secondary education, there has to be a discussion about what it will look like and how it will be paid for.

The father added that the daughter has unilaterally ceased communicating with him without a reasonable explanation. He said she refuses to have contact with him to discuss school plans, and her behaviour has put her beyond parental control and “outside the definition of marriage.” He said the child should communicate with him about her plans. The father also said the mother has not done anything to assist in repairing the relationship.

Is the daughter still a “child of the marriage”?

The court explained that “child of the marriage” is a term “of art” that is defined by the Divorce Act. The Act states that a child who is the age of majority or over but still needs assistance from their parents to obtain the necessaries of life due to illness, disability, or other cause, which includes education.

The court noted there is nothing in the Act that says a child must get along with their parents in order to be entitled to support with the exception of extreme situations. The court cited a decision from 2010 which held a 20-year-old who was estranged from her father did not preclude him from having a support obligation while she attended college. The court found that “the situational conflict that arose did not disentitle the child to support.”

The court said it was in no position to comment or make findings on whether the mother is exacerbating the difficulties between the father and the child, but said that either way, the child continues to be a child of the marriage.

The court ordered that the mother prepare a detailed educational and financial plan and provide it to the father in order to open discussions on how the daughter’s education will be paid for.

To speak with an experienced Windsor family lawyer about child custody or support, call 519.973.1500, get started now or contact us online. Many of our clients are referred to us by former and current clients, and also by lawyers, counsellors and other professionals.

 

 

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