Ms. Campbell and Mr. Campbell separated in 2014 and had three children together. Their youngest child, David, was the subject of these proceedings. By the time of the motion, David was over the age of majority.
David was a hockey player, playing for the Ontario Hockey League (“OHL”) in 2020. While David was playing in North Bay, he was living away from home and was financially supported by the team. As such, Mr. Campbell was only ordered to pay support for David for the months that he was living at home.Due to the nature of amateur hockey, David’s future was uncertain. Very few players ascend to the National Hockey League (“NHL”) from the OHL. In conjunction with this uncertainty was the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the OHL to suspend in-person play.
Given the surrounding circumstances and uncertainty regarding David’s future, Justice Gareau ordered that Mr. Campbell pay child support for David until December 2020. However, the parties could not agree on the payment of section 7 expenses. While Mr. Campbell was ordered to pay s. 7 expenses for the summer months, specifically for a personal trainer and gym membership, Justice Gareau refused to order he pay for s. 7 expenses until December, as it would be offset by his payment of child support.
While David awaited the OHL to resume in-person play, he resided at home and undertook certain online courses during the 2021 winter season. Although David continued to practice and train for his hockey career, the OHL was unfortunately forced to cancel their 2021 season.
At the motion, Ms. Campbell sought payment of Mr. Campbell’s proportionate share of David’s school, health and sport expenses under section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”).
Justice Ellies first examined whether Mr. Campbell was liable to pay any s. 7 expenses for David as he was over the age of majority. Section 2 of the Divorce Act defines a “child of the marriage” as a child of two spouses or former spouses who, at the material time,
- Is under the age of majority and who has not withdrawn from their charge, or
- Is the age of majority or over and under their charge but unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to withdraw from their charge or to obtain the necessaries of life.
Despite David being over the age of majority at the time of the motion, Justice Ellies held that he still qualified as a child of the marriage given his inability to withdraw from his parent’s charge or to obtain the necessaries of life. During the spring and summer of 2021, David was still a prospect in the OHL who could conceivably pursue a career in professional hockey. Although not every OHL player makes it to the NHL, few amateur players make it to the OHL to begin with. Justice Ellies found that it was reasonable for David to pursue a career in hockey. Due to the sacrifices David had made towards his hockey career, as well as the uncertain circumstances during this time, David was unable to survive without the financial support of his parents. Given these circumstances, Justice Ellies held David was still a child of the marriage and Mr. Campbell was still liable to contribute to his section 7 expenses.
Justice Ellies then turned to the question of whether the claimed section 7 expenses were reasonable. David’s chiropractic and medical treatments, despite Mr. Campbell’s disapproval, were still held to be reasonable given David’s pursuit of a hockey career. Consideration of David’s career path was also applied to the college courses he undertook during the 2021 winter semester. Every course David enrolled in, such as “Foundations of Exercise Science”, “Human Growth and Development for Fitness and Health Promotion”, and “Sports Psychology”, were reasonably related to his chosen career path of hockey. As such, Justice Ellies held that these expenses were necessary to maintain David’s competitiveness in the sport, and unlike the situation before Justice Gareau, Mr. Campbell was not paying any child support to offset such expenses.
As such, Justice Ellies concluded that Mr. Campbell was responsible for his proportionate share of these expenses.
The case of Campbell v Campbell illustrates the court’s approach of assessing the unique circumstances of each child in determining their parent’s support obligations. Determining the reasonableness of section 7 expenses must be considered in the context of the specific child before the court. Even if a child is pursuing a professional sports career, if the court finds that such a career path has a reasonable prospect of success, parties may still be liable for supporting same.