Healing Gaia

An Easy Change to Protect Child Support Recipients from Uncooperative Payors

When child support payors blatantly manipulate the legal system, it's time for the federal government to protect these families from ongoing abuse.

By Doreen Nicoll
Published August 12, 2015

My divorce was finalized in August 2006, following a 22 month separation and a 19 day divorce trial. Since I was given sole custody of our five children, I was also awarded child support.

Child support is calculated using: the number of children; the province or territory where the paying parent lives; and the paying parent's annual income before taxes. Child Support Guidelines used by family court judges and lawyers are available online.

In Ontario, the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) receives direction from the court to collect, distribute and enforce court-ordered child support payments. Approximately 380,000 Ontarians use this service each year.

Once a year, parents exchange their most recent tax returns. My judgment stated, "Each year, no later than the 1st of June, each party shall provide the other the information required by s.21 of the Guidelines, including a complete copy of their income tax return filed for the immediately preceding taxation year, all attachments and any notices of assessment that have been received."

Tax information is exchanged in case the income of the paying parent, also called the payor, has changed. An increase in income means an increase in child support payments, unless there are extenuating circumstances. A decrease in income means lowered child support payments for the next year. In my case, "On July 1st annually, child support shall be adjusted according to the Guidelines."

Since my divorce, I have never received my ex-husband's tax return voluntarily or on time. (This is ironic because my ex is a chartered accountant and his tax return is filed on time each year.) Hence, I go for years without annual adjustments to my child support. Unfortunately, I'm not alone in this situation.

Abusive men use the court system to continue their reign of power and control. Refusing to follow court orders is very common. It's very expensive to bring a motion forward to access tax information that was court ordered. So, I wait because the other thing abusive men like to do is take their ex-partners to court on a regular basis. I'm there every two years.

At a case conference in 2008, my lawyer was given tax information for 2006 and 2007. At a case conference in 2011, my lawyer was given my ex-husband's 2008, 2009, and 2010 tax returns. In 2012, my ex-husband's 2011 tax information was included as part of the motion he initiated. It took a year to settle that motion, which meant my lawyer was able to get my ex-husband's 2012 tax return. I'm still waiting for his 2013 and 2014 tax returns.

Approximate child support payments that were in arrears up to and including 2012 totaled $37,539. Arrears child support for 2013 and 2014 are yet to be determined, but it's a sure bet that his salary has not decreased or I would have been notified immediately.

The FRO has been doing exactly what they were mandated to do - collecting child support payments based on direction from the court. In my case, the FRO should be getting a yearly update from the court to increase the amount of child support collected, but that can't happen without my ex-husband's tax return.

Cases like mine are not included in statistics dealing with fathers in arrears with their child support payments. That's because technically my ex-husband is not in arrears because the FRO is collecting the amount stated on the most recent court order. It just happens that the 'most recent' court order is out of date because the amount collected is not based on the most current tax information.

For several years now I've been advocating for a change that would enable the FRO to access the tax returns of payors who refuse to adhere to court ordered dates of exchange. Then, adjustments to child support could take place in a timely manner and without cost to either party.

I've been told by lawyers that I don't understand the system - tax returns fall under federal jurisdiction while the FRO is provincial. I do understand this. In fact, while I have been advocating for this simple change, the Wynne government introduced Bill 14. When implemented, Bill 14 will allow separated parents to establish and regularly update support payments through an online portal, without going to court.

The service will calculate child support based on the Child Support Guidelines using information from income tax returns with the parties' consent. I simply want this service extended so the FRO can access the tax returns of payors breaching court ordered exchanges. This simple step will prevent abusive ex-partners from using the court system and FRO to continue financially and emotionally abusing their ex-partners and their children.

I've had minimal response from the Wynne government regarding this issue. Perhaps it's time that women across Ontario, and the country, make this a federal election issue. In Canada, mothers are given sole custody in 79.3 percent of court-ordered custody arrangements. Fathers get sole custody in 6.6 percent of court-ordered custody arrangements. Joint custody makes up the remaining 12.8 percent. When payors blatantly manipulate the legal system, it's time for the federal government to protect these families from ongoing abuse.

What's needed is a federal government that will give the provincial bodies the authority to access the tax returns of persistently negligent payors. Ask candidates if they're party is willing to take this courageous stand. Remind them it's in the best interest of Canadian children.

Doreen Nicoll is a feminist and a member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.

38 Comments

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 14, 2015 at 07:34:32

Hi,

While this is definitely a serious issue, and know someone personally affected by the same issues you've experienced, I have a couple of points regarding your article.

First, with this quote.

Abusive men use the court system to continue their reign of power and control.

Why is it only abusive men? That should read "abusive partners ".

Also, the math doesn't work. 79.3+6.6+12.8 = 98.7%. What about the remaining 1.3%?

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2015-08-14 07:34:50

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By CharlieBitchar (anonymous) | Posted August 18, 2015 at 09:13:40 in reply to Comment 113404

Let's face it, it's mostly abusive men.

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By doing the math (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2015 at 11:19:50 in reply to Comment 113404

Probably rounding error.

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By Doreen Nicoll (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2015 at 11:54:17

To solve the math issue, use the link 'mothers are give sole custody' to reach the Statistics Canada site. Scroll down to 'Custody' where you will find the statistics quoted in the article. The 1.2% missing from the calculation is listed by Statistics Canada as 'other' (arrangement) with no definition given.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 17, 2015 at 20:21:11 in reply to Comment 113418

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By Poorbaby (anonymous) | Posted August 18, 2015 at 07:45:43 in reply to Comment 113447

Waaah! I'm a man and everything I see should be about me and my problems!

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 23, 2015 at 22:42:20 in reply to Comment 113454

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2015 at 15:30:47

Get real Doreen, women can be just as nasty as men maybe even more so as they use the court system repeatedly.

Fathers are denied access just because women are well....

The legislation is there it just needs to be enforced but your personal rant does not even go to that valid point.

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By Fairness (anonymous) | Posted August 15, 2015 at 00:02:16

Why is it women are always the victims. I know 3 single divorced fathers with custody who have never been able to collect a penny of support from their exes and the courts don't want to help. Before you play the poor me card remember you are at least getting something, many others are getting nothing.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted August 15, 2015 at 05:38:52 in reply to Comment 113420

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted August 15, 2015 at 05:42:13

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted August 18, 2015 at 09:07:58 in reply to Comment 113422

The City of Ghent, Belgium spends 5 million Euro a year on cycling infrastructure.
Hamilton budget: $300 000 CDN (2013)

Ghent Overall Density: 1600/km^2

Hamilton Wards 1-10 densities in square km respectively: 1948, 6119, 2709, 2190, 1944, 2483, 3432, 2871, 1830, 2223.

It is really a question of priorities as opposed to history/geography.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 15, 2015 at 10:42:25 in reply to Comment 113422

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted August 15, 2015 at 16:23:32 in reply to Comment 113424

Yes, Hamilton did not exist before the car was invented. It is truly fortunate that we did not make any changes to our streets and urban fabric to accommodate cars. Because change is bad.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 16, 2015 at 20:23:46 in reply to Comment 113429

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2015 at 22:55:23 in reply to Comment 113431

Rebuttal

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 17, 2015 at 20:17:01 in reply to Comment 113432

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Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2015-08-17 20:17:21

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By DownerInHamilton (anonymous) | Posted August 17, 2015 at 22:15:28 in reply to Comment 113445

Dude seriously you need to get a life. Hamilton was an incorporated city with streets laid out in a grid almost a century before there were any cars on them and you know it, stop pretending we can't have safe neighbourhoods because we're only 200 years old not 500 years old. You left downtown to live somewhere else, good for you now stop trying to ruin it for the people who still choose to live downtown.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted August 18, 2015 at 14:24:04 in reply to Comment 113449

Coincidentally, this popped up on the CBC Hamilton page today ...

HistoricalHamilton https://twitter.com/Canadian_Books/statu...

King Street West downtown, clearly prior to significant car use, with a huge sidewalk which is now mostly given over to traffic.

Comment edited by moylek on 2015-08-18 14:24:51

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By DowntownlnHamilton (registered) | Posted August 17, 2015 at 09:08:00 in reply to Comment 113432

we can't go back in time, next you'll be saying we should have cholera back. i won't rest until the city is 100% cars and 0% people. google will have self driving cars soon so we won't need humans at all any more

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By Xavier (anonymous) | Posted August 18, 2015 at 09:17:00 in reply to Comment 113433

You're awesome! Thanks for the laughs, izeholeh.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 17, 2015 at 20:17:44 in reply to Comment 113433

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 17, 2015 at 10:51:29 in reply to Comment 113433

So, how heavy are those goalposts?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 17, 2015 at 14:43:50 in reply to Comment 113434

FYI you're responding to a parody username (look carefully at the ninth character).

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By Frodo (anonymous) | Posted August 18, 2015 at 09:19:21 in reply to Comment 113435

You punked that smeigal downtowninhamilton bastard. Good one gandolf.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 23, 2015 at 22:43:18 in reply to Comment 113461

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 17, 2015 at 16:28:07 in reply to Comment 113435

Whoops. My eyes rolled so hard at the 1st sentence I missed the satire in the 2nd.

I don't envy your moderation woes with stuff like that.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted August 15, 2015 at 07:06:26 in reply to Comment 113422

Go to another website then?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 15, 2015 at 10:42:44 in reply to Comment 113423

Better explain why then? Telling someone to leave when they challenge you does nothing to further your cause.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted August 15, 2015 at 12:41:54 in reply to Comment 113425

What challenge? All I see is whining about the fact that Raise the Hammer regularly posts articles from a feminist/urbanist/progressive viewpoint. That's pretty much the theme of this site. It's like going to the Weekly World News and complaining about all the stories about Big Foot or aliens.

Also, furthering my cause? You and LOL could care less about reasoned debate about "my cause" and just troll all the time. You are incapable of discussing anything with any degree of sincerity because you're both sociopaths.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 15, 2015 at 13:44:28 in reply to Comment 113426

Thanks, Dr. Nick. Great assessment.

The point is, the site no longer seems to care about it's stated goal and purpose. Familiarize yourself with http://raisethehammer.org/about and let me know when the site starts doing this:

Raise the Hammer is dedicated to providing a variety of views and approaches to the goal of making Hamilton a great city. Towards that end, we encourage readers to contribute feedback, letters to the editor, and article submissions. Please feel free to contact us with your comments and ideas.

Haven't seen a counterpoint to all the "we must embrace LRT" or "one way streets must go" or "the complete street myth is the silver bullet for downtown".

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted August 15, 2015 at 16:20:38 in reply to Comment 113427

Too bad Ryan keeps rejecting your articles promoting the good old days of the 1970's.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 16, 2015 at 20:22:13 in reply to Comment 113428

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted August 18, 2015 at 08:15:45 in reply to Comment 113430

Oooh, that's why you're so bitter. Because your articles are being rejected? My my...

I figured it had little to nothing to do with the topics at hand.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 23, 2015 at 22:44:21 in reply to Comment 113455

Nope, don't bother with wasting time on trying to write an article for the site. Even if it did pass the censors, er, "editors", it'd just be more fuel for the fire for anyone who can't see past their own vision for what the downtown should be.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 18, 2015 at 08:45:06 in reply to Comment 113455

Just to clarify, DowntownInHamilton has never submitted an article to RTH for consideration. His bitterness has some other source.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 23, 2015 at 22:45:28 in reply to Comment 113456

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Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2015-08-23 22:45:46

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted August 17, 2015 at 23:08:15

Doreen, thanks for this article. As someone who raised one child on her own, I can't imagine the financial struggles involved with five children.

It's too bad the comments were hijacked into an argument about streets. Trolls.

Anyway, I've been there. The system is weighted heavily in favour of the less powerful partner, but FRO can help and did help me immensely. I know I didn't receive everything that was owed to me, based on Federal guidelines, but had to let it go in the end for my own sanity.

I can't state "facts" about all men, but I've lived through, and heard a sufficient number of stories, to know that good, responsible men are not commonly found in cases of divorce with child support required. Yes, women can be dickheads too, but my interactions have found it's mostly the other way around.

I hope you can get the restitution that is owed to you. If not, life does go on and your children will realize who did the heavy lifting for them. And he may never realize why his children don't give him the respect he thinks he deserves.

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