When can a parent avoid paying child support payment arrears in Canada?

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In a recent decision, Colucci v. Colucci, 2021 SCC 24, the Supreme Court of Canada clarified the circumstances under which a parent can avoid paying child support payments in arrears.

Child support payments are a critical part of ensuring that children’s needs are met after a separation or divorce. Unfortunately, in some cases, a parent may fall behind on their child support payments, leading to significant financial hardship for the other parent and the child.

In Colucci v. Colucci, the father had fallen behind on his child support payments for several years, accumulating a significant amount of arrears. The father argued that he was unable to pay the arrears due to financial difficulties, including job loss and illness. However, the mother argued that the father had deliberately avoided paying child support and had the ability to pay the arrears.

The Supreme Court of Canada sided with the mother, holding that the father had the ability to pay the arrears and had not taken sufficient steps to address his financial difficulties. The court emphasized that parents have a legal and moral obligation to support their children and that child support payments should be a top priority.

The decision in Colucci v. Colucci provides several important lessons for parents who may be struggling to make their child support payments. First, it is essential to communicate with the other parent and the court as soon as possible if you are experiencing financial difficulties. Failure to communicate can lead to misunderstandings and may make it more difficult to resolve the situation.

Second, it is crucial to take all necessary steps to address your financial difficulties and maximize your ability to pay child support. This may include seeking new employment, reducing your expenses, and seeking financial assistance if necessary. The court will consider all of these factors when determining whether a parent has the ability to pay child support arrears.

Third, although the case primarily deals with the issue of retroactively reducing child support and rescinding arrears; it also provides important commentary for parents that are paying support who are also experiencing an increase in salary. Once a parent that pays support obtains a salary increase, their child support obligation should increase accordingly. 

Finally, it is important to be honest and transparent with the court and the other parent. Attempting to conceal assets or income can lead to severe consequences, including fines, penalties, and even imprisonment. It is important for a parent paying support to continue providing ongoing financial disclosure as part of any court ordered child support.

In summary, Colucci v. Colucci highlights the importance of fulfilling one’s legal and moral obligation to support their children through regular child support payments. If you are struggling to make your child support payments, it is essential to communicate with the other parent and the court, take all necessary steps to address your financial difficulties, and be honest and transparent about your situation. By doing so, you can avoid significant financial and legal consequences and ensure that your child’s needs are met. Please contact us for a consultation (click here).


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