Is Support Ever Too Little to Bother Pursuing?

January 24, 2014
Ron Shulman

Article written by Ron Shulman

Last week I discussed a few Ontario cases in which a court had seen fit, in light of a spouse’s pre-existing lavish lifestyles and needs, to order the other spouse to pay very high monthly support.  The question was whether $20K or even $175 was too much support on an objective basis.

This week I turn my attention to the lower end of the support range:  situations where support is so nominal that it may seem like there is no point to pursing it at all.

In Kelly v. Kelly, 2013 ONSC 6733, the father had a checkered employment history and had not been paying child support regularly.  Although he was trained as a journeyman electrician, he was currently unemployed and his only income was from the Ontario Disability Support Plan.   He received about $12,500 per year in benefits, which was significantly below the poverty line.  Still  the court ordered the father to pay $48 per month to the mother in child support.

If you are the spouse receiving support, you may ask yourself whether it’s really worth it to “go through the motions” to get court ordered support when the dollar-value return is so little.

It’s important to remember that support amounts are never “carved in stone”; as I’ve written in the past, support orders can be changed in various scenarios, most notably when a court is convinced that there has been a material change in circumstances – i.e. a new situation that renders the old support award unfair and inappropriate.

For example, perhaps the original award was nominal because both you and your Ex are earning a decent income and neither of you needs support from the other.  However, if you later lose your job and suffer some serious medical issues, a court may conclude (after looking at all of the usual factors that inform a support order) that you are entitled to receive support from your Ex under the new and unforeseen circumstances.  If you already entitled to receive support – however nominal – then it becomes relatively easy to return to court to get the order changed.

This may very well be the situation in the Kelly case;  once the father gets back on his feet and resumes his career as an electrician, the mother will be entitled to have a court $48 monthly support adjusted upward to better reflect the father’s new income levels.

Are you wavering on whether to claim support?  We can help discuss the pros and cons.  Contact us for a consultation.