Release: Child support system must promote gender equality, advocacy group argues at Supreme Court of Canada

OTTAWA – West Coast LEAF is at the Supreme Court of Canada this morning, intervening in a case about the ability of judges in BC to ensure that children and their caregiving parent get the financial support to which they are entitled, by making changes to existing child support orders.

In this important family law case, called Michel v Graydon, the paying parent, Mr. Graydon, did not consent to an annual review of the child support owing. When the child was 20 years old and living independently, he successfully sought cancellation of his child support obligations, which had remained unchanged since the amount to be paid was set in 2001.

Ms. Michel, the mother, suspected that Mr. Graydon had been underpaying on the basis that his income was greater than the amount assumed in 2001. She asked the BC Provincial Court to account for the increases in Mr. Graydon’s income and was granted $23,000 in child support after the support order was varied retroactively.

BC Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeal overturned the award of retroactive child support on the basis that the judge did not have the power to make changes to the child support order, as the person being supported was no longer a child under the Family Law Act. Now, the case is being heard at the Supreme Court of Canada.

West Coast LEAF is at the Court to argue that child support obligations in the Family Law Act must be interpreted in a generous manner, to promote–and not subvert–substantive equality. Women remain vastly overrepresented among child-carers and remain disproportionately economically insecure after the breakdown of a relationship. The vast majority of unpaid child support in Canada is owed by male payers to female recipients on behalf of children who disproportionately reside with their mothers.

“Child care responsibilities after a separation continue to break down in gendered ways. This, combined with unpaid child support, have long been recognized as contributors to the feminization of poverty,” said Raji Mangat, Executive Director of West Coast LEAF. “Ms. Michel’s circumstances as a single mother living on a fixed income are not unusual; the amount of support outstanding in her case is among the billions of dollars of unpaid child support payments across Canada.”

Mangat added, “The claim that child support is a “right of the child” rings hollow when a child’s primary carer cannot access the financial support to ensure the child’s well-being. Denying judges any power to change child support orders where one parent has vastly underpaid child support, creates a perverse incentive to avoid reporting income accurately and in a timely way.”


Available for comment:
Raji Mangat
Executive Director, West Coast LEAF
604-684-8772, ext. 218