This month’s blog will conclude looking at the legal and family financial support problems that divorcing several wives has caused singer Mark Anthony. It isn’t my intention to take regular excursions into the world of ‘showbiz,’ it’s just that when the legal topic is Family Law, specifically divorce, spousal support and child support, the celebrities sometimes offer wonderfully instructive opportunities.
To recap last month’s blog, extraordinary and extracurricular child related expenses are for unscheduled activities and needs for the child which are deemed reasonable and beneficial. Requested of the payor by the custodial parent, they are over and above the previously agreed upon child care contribution set by the courts. Typical examples range from skating lessons to school tuition. The courts will consider the costs of these extra activities or needs balanced against the financial status of the parents, applying a proportional percentage based on the parents’ relative incomes.
So, when singer Marc Anthony and wife Dayanarra Toress separated, he assumed alimony payments as well as child care expenses of $13,000 per month for their two sons. According to Mr. Anthony’s lawyer, the singer has paid for his children’s private school tuition, music lessons, camp and medical costs: it would seem that he is already providing sufficient funds to cover what would, for most of us, be defined as extraordinary expenses. However, as reported by various news agencies, Ms. Toress believes that an additional $100,000 per month for the children’s expenses would be more appropriate. At this point we’ll have to leave the matter to the California courts to decide if an increase in Mr. Anthony’s child allowance payment is warranted, while we look at the second part of this Child Support topic.
Child Support and balancing the needs of multiple families
There is yet another dimension to the issue, and singer Marc Anthony’s saga provides the instruction. After his marriage ended, Mr. Anthony married Jennifer Lopes and fathered two children with her. When a payor remarries and has children, the financial situation becomes a tangled knot. There is only so much money to go around but now the payor has two households to contribute to and child support for the children belonging to the first marriage while providing for the children from the current marriage.
Mr. Anthony and Ms. Lopes are now also divorced, and so for him it might mean two sets of child support payments. Given the success of Ms. Lopes, she might qualify as the payor for Marc Anthony, but that possibility enters the surreal and is far beyond this discussion. So it is possible to have a situation in which a payor, conceivably Marc Anthony, has two sets of children from two different marriages for whom he has to provide child support payments, including any extracurricular and extraordinary expenses.
Objective and Subjective approaches to resolving Family Court issues
As Sir Walter Scott very appropriately wrote:
Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive!
Whether or not we actually intended to deceive, the webs we tend to weave are indeed tangled. Sir Walter relied on more than imagination and poetic vision when he wrote these lines, however; a man of many talents, Sir Walter was also a practicing lawyer who had personally experienced a failed relationship previously to his eventual, long marriage. Yet it is unlikely that even he could have imagined the density of the tangled and tussled webs that our Family Courts daily sort out.
There are two approaches by which judges, within the framework of the Canadian legal system and case law, untangle our webs and help families to move forward. These are referred to as the objective and the subjective approaches. Ontario uses the subjective approach. It is this approach which takes into account the unique factors for each case: whether the extracurricular expenses being claimed are considered normal or unusual for the family’s station in life; cost of these new expenses; income (individual income and combined family income); if the custodial parent can afford the expenses without additional financial contribution from the payor; the payor’s current child support obligations, and as we discussed above, the demands and needs of a second family, if one is involved. To arrive at any sort of meaningful decision – given that ours is not a one-size-fits-all society – judges need the ability to be flexible as well as the possession of a razor sharp mind to balance the many needs and obligations with the priority of the child (children).
Federal Child Support Guidelines
This is not to say that the process is vague or wishy-washy – it is anything but. See for example, “Worksheet 2” on the Government’s Federal Child Support Guidelines website, which helps both parents to calculate the shared cost of extraordinary expenses prior to seeking intervention. It is a highly specific, six page form, asking both parents to list their incomes, the nature of the expenses, whether there is sole or shared custody and so on. You can be sure that judges will use its calculation methodology for their own decision-making process, should you seek court intervention. Other worksheets include one for determining annual income and another for undue hardship.
Here are some takeaways for readers who might be involved in the process of dealing with extracurricular and extraordinary expenses right now:
- Remember that child support is about your children. Its goal is to help you to do the best you can for them.
- Negotiating a settlement is cheaper, faster and usually much less emotionally debilitating than a full blown court case.
- If you do go to court, the court sets the welfare of your children as its first priority. If you agree, then the rest is working out the details.
- The court will look at all relevant information and attempt to work out an equitable, proportional solution.
- Replace feelings of anger with the will to compromise.
- Provide all relevant, requested information and be truthful. Be open and honest with your lawyer. Here’s a reworking of an old piece of wisdom: “Those who would fool their lawyers provide them with a fool for a client.”
And the last takeaway is, should you need professional, legal advice concerning family law or any other legal matter now, please contact us at Howard Nightingale Professional Corporation.
416 663 4423 or 1-877 224 8225