Parties married in 1979. At that time, father was a lawyer and mother was a teacher. Parties initially intended that mother would stay home for one year following the birth of the second child and then return to teaching on a part-time basis. In 1985, five days after the second child was born, parties separated. At the time of trial, mother was earning $63,000/year, and father, $945,538, with net worth valued at $78m. The father had been paying $30,000/year in child support. In 1988, the mother applied for an increase in child support. The husband failed to file a timely financial statement and the trial judge found it inappropriate for father to pay the table amount applicable to his income level, ordering him to pay $10,034/month plus discretionary expenses. The husband appealed.
- What does "inappropriate" mean in regard to s. 4 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines?
Bastarache, writing for the court, held that "inappropriate" means unsuitable regards to the means, needs and circumstances of the children and the financial capability of the spouse, and thus the amount can be either too low or too high. Both fairness and flexibility are stressed as important considerations under s. 4. There does exist a strong presumption in favour of the table amount, hence the party who is seeking a deviation from that amount has the onus of demonstrating the amount is inappropriate. Paying parents seeking variation must demonstrate that budgeted child expenses are so high as to "exceed the generous ambit within which reasonable disagreement is possible". Bastarache states there must be "clear and convincing evidence" for deviation. Only after examining all the circumstances of the case, including the facts expressly listed in s. 4(b)(ii) should courts find table amounts to be inappropriate and craft more suitable child support awards. While children can expect a "fair additional amount" beyond the first $150,000 table amount, there should be no redistribution of wealth to provide spousal support, though he recognizes the inevitability that some child support will benefit the custodial parent.
In the case at bar, the trial judge correctly considered all the factors and thus correctly exercised their discretion, leaving no basis for an appeal.
- There is a strong presumption in favour of the table amount; the onus is on the party seeking to deviate to show clear, convincing evidence why the table amount is inappropriate.
- Inappropriate means "unsuitable", not "insufficient".