Most people might think of child support as a pretty straight forward exercise. In Ontario, the amount of child support a parent must pay is determined by the Child Support Guidelines which factors in the paying parent’s income as well as the number of children of the marriage. Other factors considered by the courts include how much time the children spend with each parent. Another type of child support is that known as s.7 expenses, which are support payments designed to cover expenses outside of the regular costs of raising a child. These include items such as disability, illness, education, and more. A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice looked at whether a parent can unilaterally pay s.7 expenses and then ask the other parent to contribute retroactively.

Background

The father had been paying child support in accordance with an order dated January 4, 1999. In The order required him to pay $1,000 per month until December 1, 2000 and $900 per month after that date.

The parties have two children. The older of the two, their son, was born on January 31, 1995. Their daughter was born on April 11, 1996.

The mother’s request came in response to a motion to change brought by the father. In he request, she claimed a retroactive increase in child support as well as s.7 expenses dating back to the year 2000.

The s.7 expenses

The mother claimed to have expended considerable amounts of s.7 expenses in relation to their children’s university educations. Their son studied at a university in the United States, while their daughter studied for a short time at a Canadian university, but dropped out during her first year.  

The mother claimed that on June 12, 2014 she emailed the father to let him know that both of the children would be attending university, and asked him to contribute. He claimed to have not received the email, having had changed his email address a year prior. The mother did not follow up on the email for four years, alleging she was afraid because of prior abuse from the father. It was only in 2019 that the mother contended to having spent a considerable amount on s.7 expenses. The father, meanwhile, says he spent $80,000 on extra-curricular activities as well as other matters of the children. The couple apparently did not discuss the money they were spending on education with one another.

The father’s argument against the request was that he had been complying with the original order, which did not mention s.7 expenses. He also claimed the mother had not consulted with him about any of the expenses she was paying, leaving him with no opportunity to provide input. This was all in addition to the $80,000 he claimed to have spent.

The court’s analysis

The court highlighted several difficulties with the mother’s claim for .7 expenses. The court found,

“ First, apart from some general emails there was no formal request for a contribution to specific special expenses.  Ordinarily, parties would discuss which specific activities or other matters would legitimately constitute a special expense, to which both parties should contribute, and court action, in the event of disagreement, could sort out the matter at the time.  That did not happen.

Furthermore, at this point it would be difficult to determine, with any accuracy, exactly what contributions either party has made to what could legitimately be considered to be special expenses.  Both parties have attempted to do so, but I am not convinced that their calculations are particularly accurate”

Finally, the court found that by this time, it would have been “difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at what would be a reasonable cost-sharing arrangement.” As a result, the mother’s request was denied.

At Borden Family Law we have been helping our clients with child support issues for over 17 years. We strive to ensure our clients’ children are well taken care of following a divorce or separation, and that their interests are protected throughout their childhood. Please call us at 905-576-6090 or reach us online to see how we can help you today. Please remember to ask about our bundled services and flat fees.