Watt v. Watt: extraordinary expenses too expensive

This Ontario Superior Court case focused on section 7 expenses.  The court provided a lot of useful information in surveying the relevant caselaw for this topic. Further, this case made a number of important points about what a court will take into account when calculating how much a parent should pay for section 7 expenses.

The couple in this case married in 1992 and divorced in 2003.  The couple had three children together and had subsequently remarried. The applicant wife sought for the respondent husband to be ordered to pay 80 percent of all extraordinary expenses. The children were involved in a number of different activities including: competitive dance, orthodontics, hockey, driving lessons, and life insurance policies for the children. The extraordinary expenses cost approximately $12,000 per year.

One of the primary issues concerning this case was how the court should calculate means.  Section 7 expenses are, according to the Child Support Guidelines and the couple’s separation agreement, to be paid proportionately to each of the parent’s income.  The father’s income was $121,000 while the mother had only $20,000. The applicant successfully argued that the respondent’s wife income should also be considered in terms of means.

The court also discussed whether or not the extraordinary expenses were too expensive.  This was determined by analyzing how much the extraordinary expenses were in comparison to the means available to both parents.  The court determined here that $12,000 per year (approximately 10% of the father’s income) was excessive.  The court found that it was important for the father to support the extracurricular activities of his children, but the amount was far too high. The court ordered the respondent to help pay for the orthodontics, driving lessons and life insurance.  However, the court stated that the respondent would not be ordered to help pay for the costs associated with competitive dance or hockey, which made up $10,200 of the extraordinary expenses. The court acknowledged that the test for whether an extraordinary expense is justifiable is whether it is in the best interest of the child. Here it determined that this could be satisfied at a community level, and for considerably less money.

The court never stated that the respondent should not help pay for his children’s extracurricular activities. This case does, however, stand as a warning to custodial parents who just assume that because the child is involved a court will just rubber-stamp an order for section 7 expenses.  A court will take any application for section 7 expenses seriously, and carefully investigate any claims.

Andrew Feldstein

The Feldstein Family Law Group (FFLG) is one the largest family law firms that practices Family Law exclusively in Greater Toronto, with ten lawyers and counting. The boutique law firm has won the Top Choice Award for Family Law™ in Toronto for the past eleven years (2007 to 2017 inclusive).

Managing Partner Andrew Feldstein has been practicing family law for more than 20 years and frequently comments on Family Law issues through the media. The Feldstein Family Law Group offers vast written, video, and media resources on its website to those who find that they need to end their relationship.

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