A father in a highly-contentious divorce asked the court to determine whether he had to continue to contribute to the costs of his son’s MMA training, which the father believed was not beneficial to the son. The court ordered that the father continue to pay for the training but warned the mother that she should discuss future expenses with the father.

What Happened?

The parties began living together in 2000 and were married in 2003. They have two children, a boy (age 13) and a girl (age 9). The couple ultimately separated in 2014.

Prior to the separation, the father had been living in Toronto during the weeks for work, returning to the family home in Kingston on weekends. During this time, the mother had been taking care of all day-to-day parenting responsibilities, including making decisions about the children’s education and healthcare. Following the separation, the mother continued in this role as sole decision-maker.

Post-separation, the outstanding issues between the couple were many, among them were special or extraordinary expenses for the children.

Expenses for MMA Training

The father was unhappy with some of the expenses that the mother was incurring for the children following the separation. He claimed such expenses were paid without his consultation or approval, but that he had “not balked at paying”.

The father indicated his issues with the following:

  • The in-house tutor hired by the mother: although the father noted that he was not consulted when the tutor was hired, he did not protest the idea of a tutor in principle and contributed payments towards the cost of the tutor.
  • Nanny expenses: the father viewed the nanny expenses as partly unnecessary as the nanny often took on tasks that went beyond child-care, and he was concerned that if this continued he would be over-paying.

The largest source of concern for the father was the mother’s decision to put the son in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training. He believed that while karate (which the son also participated in) provided a benefit to him, MMA was different since the only objective was to hurt or subdue the opponent.

The father was concerned that this would send the wrong message to the son, whose behavioural issues often included aggression. Despite these concerns, which he voiced to the mother, the father indicated he would contribute to the cost of the MMA but asked the court to determine whether he had to do so going forward.

Section 7 Expenses

We’ve previously blogged about section 7 expenses, also known as special or extraordinary expenses. In short, these are expenses that a payor parent may be required to contribute to above and beyond their basic child support obligations.

Section 7 expenses include things such as extracurricular activities, post-secondary tuition and other educational expenses, and healthcare expenses not covered by insurance (for instance, orthodontics or eye care).

A court may order a payor parent to cover some or all section 7 expenses where those expenses meet the two-part test of being 1) reasonable and 2) necessary. The guiding principle is that the amount of the expenses should be shared by the parents in proportion to their respective incomes.

The Decision

In this case, the court noted that there is nothing in the Child Support Guidelines that stipulates that both parents must be consulted with respect to section 7 expenses, so long as the expenses meet the test of being both reasonable and necessary.

However, the court did note that it has the discretionary power to award section 7 expenses. As such, a failure by the parent claiming such expenses to consult with the other parent, or the refusal by the claiming parent to have such a discussion with the payor parent could affect the court’s decision as to whether an expense is reasonable or whether it is necessary. The court also noted that judges have, in the past, denied section 7 expenses on the basis that there had been no consultation between the parents.

The court permitted the MMA expenses to be shared as between the parents in this case, as part of the overall child support obligations, but did warn the mother about the importance of cooperation and discussion when it comes to expenses for their children, noting:

I encourage the parties and in particular the mother to have these discussions in advance, and simply caution both parties that how they approach future expenditures could impact whether they would be allowed by the court if contested. 

The father was ordered to pay the mother just over $3,200 as an adjustment for section 7 expenses until the end of 2016, and that the parties were to share section 7 expenses going forward, in proportion to their respective incomes.

The father’s request for an order stipulating that his prior consent would be needed for every section 7 expense going forward was denied, with the court simply reminding the mother of the importance of consulting with the father and the potential legal impact of not doing so.

Child support and related issues can be technically challenging and emotionally thorny following a separation or divorce. If you have questions about child support, contact experienced Windsor family lawyer Jason P. Howie.  What you will find with Jason is a small firm dedicated to working with you directly, and putting your needs ahead of all others.  You will be working with someone who will give your case the attention it deserves, and who is willing to put in long hours to ensure every care is taken to protect your concerns. Contact Jason online or at 519-973-1500.

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