It’s common for many relationships to require sacrifices from all involved. When children enter the picture, it’s not uncommon for one parent to step away from their career in order to spend more time with their children, especially if the cost of childcare exceeds what they would be earning in their job. In a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the court looked at both child support and spousal support when one of the parents makes much more money than the other.

Unbalanced earnings between parents

The parents were married in 2010 and separated in 2017. They had three children while they were married, all of whom are still under the age of 18.

During the last few years of their marriage, the mother began to take a nursing program at a university. She studied from 2015 until she graduated in 2020. This means than the mother’s career started much later than the father’s, who works as a real estate agent.

In 2018 the parties entered into minutes of settlement for child and spousal support (“the agreement”). In that order, the father, who made about $200,000 per year in his job, was ordered to pay $4,000 per month in spousal support and $1,000 per month in child support. The father was also ordered to pay all Section 7 expenses up to $10,000 per year.

The mother was not working at the time the agreement was put into place, but she is about to start working in her field on a part-time basis.

Father changes support payments unilaterally

The mother told the court that the father was the sole income earner throughout their marriage. The mother had planned to graduate in 2019, but failed a course in the Spring of 2019, which delayed her graduation slightly. She has since graduated.

In July 2019 the mother claimed the father unilaterally changed the terms of the agreement and began to pay a total of $3,600 instead of the $5,000 outlined in the agreement. The mother also claimed the father refused to contribute to additional daycare which she needed in order to work while going to school. Finally, the mother said the father has failed to provide his 2019 income details as required.

The father responds

The father stated that the mother’s failing of one course required her to take one more course in a fifth year of education (over two semesters), and complained that she did not work while taking the single course. He told the court there are no valid reasons to explain her refusal to find part-tine work, especially since he said they were sharing access on a 50/50 basis. Finally, he also stated that his income was impacted by COVID-19.

Details are needed in order to show changes in income

The court was critical of the father’s failure to provide his 2019 income details, also finding that his expenses listed in previous years were not properly documented and did not explain his business expenses in enough detail. Additionally, even if the father thought the mother should be working, it was not within his rights to make a decision on his own to reduce support payments.

That said, the mother’s anticipated income of $40,000 should be taken into account. The court imputed the father’s income at a similar amount as he claimed the previous year, and adjusted the support amounts to reflect these salaries.

It’s common for life to throw changes at us, but it is important to make sure that the law and court orders are followed when this happens. Rather than making unilateral decisions, consult with the team at NULaw. We have years of experience guiding business owners and entrepreneurs through changes in their personal lives. Our goal is to fully understand the nuances of your venture, protect your assets, and safeguard your financial future as your circumstances evolve. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation.

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