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.

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