Child Support and Shared Custody – the Contino case

In cases of shared custody, in other words, cases where both parents have custody and the children spend approximately the same amount of time with each parent, the amount of child support is discretionary. How judges should exercise this discretion has resulted in a large amount of litigation.

The most important case dealing with this issue is Contino. I reviewed the Ontario Court of Appeal decision here.

Well, yesterday the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision of the appeal from the Supreme Court. You can find the decision here.

I’ll comment on this in more detail in the near future. But, it’s interesting to note that this is the *4th* court that’s heard this case, and all 4 courts came to different decisions. The motions judge decided that child support should be $100 per month. The Divisional Court decided that child support should be $688 per month. The Court of Appeal decided that child support should be $399.61 per month. And the Supreme Court of Canada decided that child support should be $500 per month.

While the Supreme Court ultimately sets the rules, it’s interesting to note that so many intelligent judges reviewed the exact same situation in great detail yet came to such different conclusions. You roll the dice when you go to court…

What do you think of this decision? How should child support be dealt with in situations of shared custody?

Comments

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with the decision. It’s about time stopping the kids as pawns. This 40/60 ruling has caused so much trouble and a ploy to opt out of the guideline amount. It is interesting how guys suddenly can become there 50% when they were never there before. Mine would not return the kids and I could do nothing about it because the sep agreement hadn’t been signed. My kids were left unsupervised in the school yard early in the morning. It has squat to do with the kids, it is all about paying less. It is nothing but a control issue and many guys have problems with this. It is interesting as well how many guys leave when all the hard work of diapers, midnight feeds are over.
    Furthermore, it destroys co-parenting when someone has a control problem and the kid suffers.
    Women make 61 cents/$ compared to a guy at 100c. The opportunities are less for women and usually forced inn to the non-profit or public ghetto. They say marriage is considered an equal partnership – well that is a crock. There is no equality for women anyway, so why would there ever be in family law particularly when the good-old boys club rules. I am so glad that the courts finally did something to stop thhis ridiculous and unnecessary tug of war. Guys haven’t figured it out. If you treat your ex-wife well then it spills on to the kids and isn’t that in the best interst of the kids? If she’s happy then she will send out positive energy and probably attract someone else and will move on in her life -now that’s a savings isn’t. As the adage goes. You get more with honey than you do with vinegar. Law of cause and effect and a human trait is always to give back (maybe not money) but in other positive ways.

  2. So Donna, what is your story? You come across as the typical ex with an axe to grind. Do you and your ex have joint custody and joint access? Was this freely given by each party. Or were concessions after concessions given by the father. Or was there a court case?

    Did you divide the property based on who contributed more or some other fair split, or was it a 50-50 cash grab by one party?

    I assume you are not receiving spousal support? What about child support? Did you withhold the children to get child support? Did the father agree to pay full support in order to get 50-50?

    I have been in court for three years. I’ve seen it all.

    The Contino decision was wrong. Both parents make about the same salary and parent the child equally. Yet, he basically pays the full amount as a parent who is not there at all. Also, it is very interesting that the schedule before the CS trial was about 38% access for Mr. Contino. Did anyone even question that? A child that age should have been week on/week off. But no, Mrs. Contino but the child through the schedule from hell just to keep Mom in full child support.

    So Mr. Contino has to follow the rules and pay full support below 40%. And then they re-invent the rules when he crosses 40%. Yet, had it been 50% from day one, he would have been making payments based on a third set of rules. Without a formula, it is chaos. The first decision, $100 per month, was correct. Simply use the offset. $500 per month says ” Be involved and you get screwed. It is better to abandon your children”.

    You are correct. It is never about children. It is all about money.

  3. I think that the 40% rule was the dumbest thing the architects of the Child Support Guidelines could have ever come up with. Nearly ten years after Bill C-41 became law, we are still trying to solve the riddle of child support and frankly, I would be oh so please to find a comparsion of how many cases were litigated under the pre-child support guidelines law versus what has been happening since 1997.

    I also believe that child support should be an exchange of monies between parents with no government interference at all, but that’s another story.

    The 40% rule set up both parents for ongoing conflict. As predicted by many groups opposed to Bill C-41, the 40% rule created an incentive for one parent to obtain primary care as well as an incentive for the other parent to try to change that. Ten years later, every mother who wants primary care is accused of trying to use the 40% rule to get child support and every father who is trying to obtain shared parenting is accused of trying to avoid child support.

    Given that our culture tends to value mothers over fathers, a father’s motives for obtaining shared parenting are questioned or face greater scrutiny whereas a mother’s motives aren’t.

    One final point, I find it interesting that wealthier people (you know, the people who can afford the legal fees to bring a case before the SCC) are the people who are able to afford to challenge existing law and those decisions impact the rest of us – you know, the unwealthy or great unwashed.

    That point in and of itself speaks to how access to justice in Canada is largely a rich person’s game and those mothers and fathers who can’t afford to change their minds but need the same access to the courts are left to their own devices.

  4. Thanks for your comments Sean.

    Sean said:
    >>I also believe that child support should be an exchange of monies between parents with no government interference at all, but that’s another story.

    >>Given that our culture tends to value mothers over fathers, a father’s motives for obtaining shared parenting are questioned or face greater scrutiny whereas a mother’s motives aren’t.

    I agree with both points!

    Sean said:
    >>Ten years later, every mother who wants primary care is accused of trying to use the 40% rule to get child support and every father who is trying to obtain shared parenting is accused of trying to avoid child support.

    Yes, a regular part of my practice is dealing with just this issue.

    Sean said:
    >>One final point, I find it interesting that wealthier people (you know, the people who can afford the legal fees to bring a case before the SCC) are the people who are able to afford to challenge existing law and those decisions impact the rest of us – you know, the unwealthy or great unwashed.

    Litigation is very expensive. I’m not sure anyone who goes to the Supreme Court on a family law matter, even if they win their case, can be considered a winner. The cost, in both financial and emotional terms, is enormous.

    And in a sense, they’re doing doing a public service by going to the Supreme Court of Canada, as in the future, people in the same situation will benefit.

    But you’re right: too many times, people without much money need to accept a lower quality of justice simply because they don’t have money.

    On another note, I really like your web site and can see how much you’re helping people.

  5. Thanks for your feedback and kind words about our site. Well done on the blog by the way … I refer a lot of our clients here for up to date views on the state of family law in Canada.

  6. Thanks – much appreciated!

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