Child-support guidelines: Australia and Québec well ahead of Canada

child support, australiaWhen you’re a child and you first learn that the two people who you love the most and who were by your side all your life are separating, you feel that your world is turning upside down.

I would know. I was in that place at the age of five.

When a government decides to interfere in the life of a child of separated parents, it damn well better know what it’s doing; otherwise, it risks harming the child.

Governments all over the world have decided to interfere in those lives.

I have studied how  three such governments interfere and, on a scale of 0 to 10 where 10 is the best that a government can do, Australia scores an eight, Québec a six, and Canada – a big fat zero.

All three governments currently have mandatory child-support guidelines. In their guidelines, Australia and Québec calculate the amount of support by relying on grids of child-related expenses based on the incomes of both parents. Their scores are reflective of how much thought went into the development of those grids.

In its guideline, Canada presents grids of support amounts based on the income of just one parent. Its score is indicative of the fact that its guideline is illegal.

So, what makes a child-support guideline a good one? One that justly recognizes each parent’s child-related expenses, justly allocates such expenses, and motivates parents to spend as close to equal time with their children as possible.

If a child spends alternating weeks with each parent, should one parent pay support?

Canada says: “Yes. The higher-income-earning parent must pay. And, the greater the income gap, the greater the amount of support.” This makes no sense.

Remember that the child is spending the exact same time with each parent.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If one parent pays for a certain expense and both parents agree that expenditure benefits their child, then the other parent should contribute towards that expense. Such expenses would include clothes, cell phones, laptops, and fees for recreational activities.

But, the higher-income-earning parent should not be contributing to the food or shelter costs of the other parent.

I happen to be the lower-income-earning parent and I want nothing to do with the support which Canada compels the mother of my children to pay if I spent alternating weeks with my children. I just want my children to spend equal time with each parent.

But Canada tragically created a double incentive away from that healthy time-share.

In keeping my children’s time with me below 40 per cent, their mother achieves two selfish objectives – she avoids paying support and she receives support.

So, for my children, Canada compels the poorer parent to enrich the richer parent. And, with every passing year, the gap in living standards between the two homes widens. Is that in the children’s best interests?

I highly doubt it and so should any caring parent. Ironically, Canada provides for the calculation of such a gap as evidence that a parent or their child is suffering undue hardship. Armed with that evidence, the parent can then ask a judge to change the support.

When I presented evidence to a judge once that my children’s living standards in one home were 20 times superior to their living standards in their other home, the judge didn’t find the evidence compelling enough!

Are you kidding me? Apparently, by change the support, the judges capriciously read increase the support!

So, if a mother needs the support increased because her living standards are lower than the father’s a judge accommodates her, but, if a father needs the support decreased because his living standards are lower than the mother’s, the judge does not accommodate him, even though the guideline gives a judge the discretion to increase or decrease the support with the phrase “change the support”.

If a government decides to interfere in the life of a child of separated parents, it would not be unreasonable for it to demand that every significant individual, involved in that interference – from the Assistant Deputy Minister of Justice, to the researcher, to the consultant, to the author and the editor of government publications, to the judge – be (or, at the very least, have a sound understanding of what it is like to be) both a separated parent and a child of separated parents. Perhaps then, and only then, can we expect that interference to be in the best interests of the child.

Meanwhile, back in Canada…

A father has been ordered to pay child support to his ex-wife despite results of DNA testing that found three of the four children he helped raise are not biologically his, a Quebec Superior Court ruled.

The man learned the shocking news after he demanded DNA testing when he and his wife of 16 years separated in April 2010.

“Since I learned that I am a broken man,” the father said.

His daughters are aged 12, 14, and 16, and his son is nine. DNA testing revealed the son is his only biological child.

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