Frank Disclosure, Sensible Discussions and Child Support: Ladniak v. Mitchell

The couple in this particular case were married for 18 years before separating in 1998. They had two children of the marriage, namely, Jessica, born April 11, 1986 and Eric, born February 9, 1983. Both children initially lived with their mother after the parties separated. However, once the children reached their teenage years, they moved in with their father, and the mother was resultantly required to begin paying child support. For reasons unknown to the judge, after the children moved in with their father, they became hostile towards their mother and aborted all sensible communications with her.

The respondent mother now wished to terminate child support on the basis that Jessica and Eric were no longer “children of the marriage” within the meaning of the Divorce Act.

Jessica was enrolled in full-time university until December 2006. Counsel for both parties agreed that Jessica’s status as a “child of the marriage” ceased to exist after she finished school in December 2006. The true dispute in this case came with respect to Eric who had a somewhat more staggered educational history. Eric began college in September 2002 when he was 19 years of age, and finished his course in December 2002. Eric began working during the winter of 2003 when he was 20 years old. Three years later, Eric alleged that he sustained a workplace injury, which resultantly forced him to quit his job. Subsequently, Eric re-enrolled in a one year college program to pursue a different career path. Eric completed the new program in 2007.

The judge came down very hard on the Applicant father who was less than forthright in providing his spouse with pertinent information pertaining to the children. The mother, for example, had a difficult time in the past ascertaining when the children were in enrolled in what programs. Furthermore, the father was not cooperative in terms of providing the mother with copies of the children’s personal income tax returns when she requested them, nor was he cooperative in providing her with documented proof of the amount of monies spent on the children for scholastic related activities. The mother would request, but would receive no information regarding her children’s status, expenses, courses and grades. The father also did not find it necessary to provide the mother with sufficient evidence relating to Eric’s alleged workplace injury. The judge made it crystal clear that “in circumstances such as this the person(s) seeking funds has the onus to be forthcoming, meticulous, and timely on the expenses he or she wishes the other party to pay”. The judge ruled, however, that in this case the father was less than forthcoming, meticulous and timely.

The judge also highlighted the “curious animosity” of the children toward their mother after a 12 year passage of time. He was very appalled that the children would still expect their mother to assist them financially when they were not even able to have a “sensible discussion” with her. The judge made it clear after having quoted Law v. Law (which stands for the proposition that an adult child who has terminated the relationship with a non-custodial paying parent for no good cause loses his/her status as a child of the marriage), that at the very minimum, an adult child seeking support should be able to at least have sensible conversations with the paying parent. In the judges’ view, “it is clearly in the best interests of any child to be encouraged to acquire a familiarity with basic human courtesy”. The evidence showed that Eric made no attempt to contribute financially to his education, and refused to demonstrate any ounce of appreciation toward his mother for the payments she had provided to him thus far.

After canvassing the foregoing issues, the court ultimately decided that Eric’s status as a ‘child of the marriage’ was terminated at the completion of his initial college program in December 2002.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. I feel that this is an excellent case, as it serves as a valid reminder of three very important concepts in family law:

    (1) First, the case demonstrates how separated/divorced parents must always be willing to provide full and frank information/disclosure about their children to the other parent when asked to do so, despite the fact that the parent requesting the said information/disclosure is the non-custodial parent. In other words, the non-custodial parent is just as entitled to information regarding their children as the custodial parent is.

    (2) Second, both parents must attempt to facilitate the relationship between their children and the other parent, so as to appease the courts’ concerns respecting possible parental alienation. The judge in this case makes reference to the “curious animosity” of the children toward the mother, which perhaps raises a red flag that the judge might have been concerned about parental alienation by the father in this case, and thus factored same into his decision.

    (3) Finally, this case demonstrates that children should be very cautious about terminating their relationship with a non-custodial parent for no good reason, as doing so may be good cause for a judge to rule that the children are no longer “children of the marriage”.

  2. This is a nice, brief and to the point case dealing with a very important issue regarding the termination of child support. Both children in this case were clearly no longer “children of the marriage”. The Honourable Justice Harris said it like it is and chastised the father and the children for their behaviour. I was pleased to see that he recommended that the children be provided with copies of his endorsement. It was apparent that the father was purposely frustrating the mother’s attempts at getting to the truth of whether she should be continuing to pay child support for the children. The decision by the judge to terminate support for the daughter was simple. The son’s case was slightly more complicated. The mother was treated unfairly by the father and the children. The son was independent from when he completed school, began working, earned a significant income and had some injury, details of which were not provided to the court or to the mother. It is unclear whether the children unilaterally chose to end the relationship with their mother and it may have been unfair to terminate support on that basis, which was not done in this case, however the mother was definitely just a wallet to these children. The judge made his decision to terminate support retroactively on the basis that the children had completed their education and were independent. The fact that the son commenced another education program at the age of 24 does not make him once again a “child of the marriage”.

    This case is a good lesson for those custodial parents who choose not to comply with requests from the payor parent for information and documentation. One must come to court with clean hands or risk an adverse judgment. Good decision.

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