So your income went down after you were convicted of a criminal offence, and now you can’t pay child support? Too bad:
When it comes to paying child support, courts won’t sympathize with parents who are the authors of their own financial demise through criminal activity, a family court judge recently ruled this month.
In Rogers v. Rogers, Superior Court Justice Alex Pazaratz found an Ontario father who lost his well-paying job due to criminal convictions couldn’t use his reduced income as an excuse to stop paying child support.
The father, Scott Rogers, “is intentionally under-employed. His intentional behaviour caused him to lose employment and limit his opportunities to find replacement employment,” wrote Pazaratz.
Rogers drove without a licence for 10 years and was convicted of driving while suspended 12 times, according to the ruling. He kept driving after each conviction until “it all caught up with him” in February 2011, wrote Pazaratz. The court sent him to jail for eight months, the judge noted.
Rogers’ employer refused to take him back after he got out of jail, forcing him to take up another job that pays far less than his previous income of $74,500. Rogers also accumulated convictions for uttering threats and harassing his ex-wife.
According to the judge, the father “made conscious decisions to do things — illegal things — with the full knowledge that his reckless and anti-social behaviour would make him unavailable (let alone, unacceptable) for employment. The net result is the same as if he’d handed in his resignation.”
The father of two had gone to court with an application to stop paying child support once his income plummeted to an expected $33,000 in 2013. But Pazaratz said his children and ex-wife shouldn’t have to pay for his bad decisions.
The Ontario Court of Justice decided similarly in Costello v. Costello. In that case, a father sought reduced support for his two children after losing his job following run-ins with the law.
Toronto family lawyer Bill Rogers calls the decision a “really good reminder” for both family lawyers and litigants of how the courts treat parents who lose their jobs through their own actions. “It’s basically like quitting your job,” he says.
According to Pazaratz, the definition of intentional doesn’t require establishing that the father lost his job just so he could stop paying child support. “There is no requirement of bad faith or need to find a specific intent to evade child support. Rather, as the objectives of the child support guidelines state, parents have a joint and ongoing obligation to support their children. Imputing income is one method which courts can use to give effect to this obligation.”
He added: “The expectations placed on the applicant were not terribly onerous: Obey the law. Support your children. It would be counter to public policy to allow the applicant to deliberately breach the first obligation and then use his own misconduct to avoid the second.”