Second Families & Child Support - Call for Reform
SECOND OR SUBSEQUENT FAMILIES AND THE CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES - A CALL FOR REFORM Introduction: The Guidelines standard table amount of child support should reflect the total number of children for which the payor is responsible, whether or not that payor is living separate and apart from any particular child. Primacy of the family in thought but not always in action: The injustice done to second and subsequent families in Canada is truly a black mark on our justice system. On the one hand, we tout the primacy of the family; yet, on the other hand we tend to impoverish the second and subsequent family. Public policy tends to preserve and protect the financial integrity of the custodial parent\'s part of the first family unit. Our intent to treat all equitably in theory is mandated in the Guidelines: 1. The objectives of these Guidelines are; (d) to ensure consistent treatment of spouses and children who are in similar circumstances. Canadians pride themselves on being fair and even handed. However, why should children of intact second and subsequent families be treated any less fairly than previous children of separated families Why should we continue to promote what amounts essentially to a punitive approach against payors who have children in second or subsequent relationships What does that say about how we are treating their entirely innocent children We give lip service as a society to the importance of family. However, when we have to make choices with respect to supporting the integrity of families, we invariably adopt an unnecessarily punitive approach against support payors (usually men) even though such an approach does harm to children of second families, let alone to the children of the first marriage! Our social policy does not make any sense: There is no valid policy reason to favour one family over another. Children do not choose whether to be born of a first marriage/union or a subsequent marriage/union. Why should children be treated differently Our social policy makes no logical sense and even less human sense. Surely if our social policy recognizes non traditional families through legislation and case law, then should it not logically follow that we provide equal recognition and indeed substantive protection to children of second and subsequent families For example, there are instances in the case law of judges excoriating men who dare to have children of subsequent unions such men are criticized for having the gall to make more children when they should have given priority to the children of the first marriage. Our social policy in favour of families and children breaks down abominably when faced with the choice of being fair to all children versus demonizing support payors and making them pay amounts of child support that serve to severely prejudice if not impoverish children of second and subsequent families. Suffice it to say, that our meat chart approach leaves us with very little room to deviate from the standard table amount. Predictability trumps fairness and compassion. At least in the area of second and subsequent families, we can perhaps alleviate and ameliorate the most blatant area of injustice in Canadian child support law and practice. New section needed: It follows then that section 10 of the Child Support Guidelines is totally inadequate to deal with the problem. We need a new section in the Guidelines to implement such policy. Such policy would no more encourage men to have more children than it can be said that ordering the full table amount against various men in loco parentis encourages women to collect serial father figures in successive relationships. Conclusion: This writer fully recognizes that adoption of such an equitable approach would result in some children obtaining less of their father\'s resources than at present. However, this writer maintains that such an approach is the only fair means of dealing with children of second and subsequent relationships. The least that we can do as a society is treat the children fairly, even where we might have little or no inclination to treat the payors compassionately.