Father Asks Court To Rule On Whether Mother Can Unilaterally Increase A Child’s Participation In Ballet Lessons

Written on behalf of Arbesman Hamilton LLP

Separated and divorced parents with children can face a number of challenges when making what may seem like every day decisions for most people. Take for example a recent decision from the Ontario Court of Justice where a mother unilaterally made the decision to increase the couple’s child’s participation in ballet, thereby increasing the amount of child support to be provided by the father.

The cost of special expenses

The mother and father were married for nine years. They had one child, a daughter, who was 11 at the time of the hearing. The daughter lives primarily with the mother and sees the father on alternate weekends. The couple signed a separation agreement on August 16, 2013, registering it with the court in 2014. The agreement required the father to pay $766 per month in child support based on an income of $85.520. The father was also responsible for 70% of the child’s “special expenses” and $898 monthly in spousal support.

Prior to the father’s application, the annual fees for the daughter’s ballet were $900. However, the mother unilaterally increased the daughter’s participation in ballet, enrolling her in additional classes that drove the total annual cost up to $3,000. She claimed she did this because the daughter loved ballet and wanted to spend more time involved in it.

The mother was claiming over $6,000 in ballet-related expenses that the father had not paid for. The father submitted that he had agreed to pay for the cost of one lesson each week, amounting to $900 annually. He was not aware of, and was not in support of, the mother’s decision to enroll the daughter in additional classes. The mother admitted that the father had not agreed to additional lessons.

Reaching a middle ground

The court found that pursuant to the couple’s separation agreement, the father was not responsible to pay the increased amount. He also found that the couple were not able to communicate effectively about what would amount to reasonable expenses, which was what led to the issue being brought before the courts.

However, the court also wanted to permit the child to pursue her love of ballet, and supported her desire to participate more frequently than once per week. The court determined than an annual budget of $2,000 should be set aside for balled as an “extraordinary expense” with the father to pay 70% of those expenses, amounting to $116 monthly. The mother was obligated to contribute the remaining 30% and to also advise the father when lessons are decreased in frequency or terminated. Such events would qualify as material changes with respect to the support order.

There are a number of issues that can arise when a couple goes through a separation or divorce, including those related to child and spousal support. The family lawyers at Arbesman Hamilton LLP work with our clients to understand their unique situations and what must be done to protect your rights while also ensuring that the emotional disruption on your family is kept to a minimal level. We help our clients with a full range of family law matters and can be reached online or by phone at 416-481-5604