While we have previously blogged about Kelsey Grammer's divorce from his wife of thirteen years, Camille Grammer, as the couple delves into settlement discussions tabloids continue to report about the issues the divorcing couple faces. In particular, to settle his financial obligations arising from their separation on a full and final basis, Kelsey proposed a lump sum payment in the amount of $30 million to his estranged wife. The proposal was rejected by Camille who anticipated receiving $50 million in settlement funds which would include both child support and spousal support.
In Ontario, separating parties are not entitled to bargain away child support as public policy dictates that both parents have a financial obligation towards their child. A parent’s child support obligation is a continuing obligation that cannot be removed by agreement. A child’s right to receive support from their parents is inherent and cannot be waived. The status of the parents’ relationship has no impact on this right. In other words, it does not matter whether the parents are divorced, separated or unmarried; the child's right to support so long as he or she remains a child of the relationship is guaranteed. Thus, any attempted waiver of such support is a direct violation of public policy.
In this case, Camille has not waived her right to make a claim for child support. Instead, she is agreeable to accepting a one time payment in the amount of $50 million which would encompass Kelsey's child support contributions (we assume both retroactive and ongoing). In Ontario, a child’s best interests are given paramount importance child support cases. The best interests of the child is the standard courts use in determining many child support, custody and visitation issues. In order to determine the best interests of the child, the Court considers a non-exhaustive list of elements that examine the family's life to help determine what actions will be in the best interest of the children. A few main areas that are examined include parental employment and quality of life.
Courts will not agree to a complete waiver of child support by the parents. Courts will refuse to limit the amount of support based on parental agreement if it is not in the best interests of the child. A court will look to child support guidelines to decide if an agreement falls within the guidelines and results in the protection of the child’s best interests.
Again, in this case Camille is willing to limit the amount of support and has not agreed to a complete waiver. While the family courts encourage parties to negotiate their affairs on their own accord, a compromise over child support that is a bad deal for the child, is not within the Federal Child Support Guidelines and not in the child’s best interests will not get court approval. On the other hand, if an agreed-upon support amount is consistent with child support guidelines and protects the best interests of the child, court approval is more likely.
Essentially, if Kelsey and Camille were divorcing in Ontario, the court would have to review their proposal and consider it in light of the best interests of the children in order to determine if such negotiations would be fair for all parties involved. After all, child support is not about the parents; it is about the child.