The recent decision of Davies J. in Lange v Lange & Tait (2022 ONSC 6412) is a good example of how child-focused mediation can help parents resolve disputes in the best interests of the children.
Ms. Lange and Mr. Tait had a child together as a result of a brief relationship. By the time the child was born, Ms. Lange was in a relationship with Mr. Lange, whom she married some years later.
Mr. and Ms. Lange represented to the world that the child was their daughter in every respect. Mr. Tait played no part in his child’s life.
When Mr. and Ms. Lange separated, the child was 6 years old. Ms. Lange sought child support from Mr. Lange who, in turn, added Mr. Tait as a respondent and sought an order that Mr. Tait pay child support. Before the matter came before the court, Mr. Tait and Ms. Lange worked out an interim amount of child support that Mr. Tait would pay.
The court’s decision therefore addresses Ms. Lange’s claim for child support against Mr. Lange, and Mr. Lange’s cross motion that Mr. Tait provide more financial disclosure.
Mr. Lange argued that Mr. Tait was intentionally under-employed and sought financial disclosure from him. Mr. Lange proposed to adjourn until the question of Mr. Tait’s proper contribution was determined.
In the alternative, Mr. Lange argued that he should not have to pay any child support at all, as there is a biological father with that responsibility.
The court handled the matter in a child-first way, ordering Mr. Lange to pay interim child support based on his income using the “top-up” formula, and ordering Mr. Tait to provide financial disclosure.
“Both Mr. Lange and Mr. Tait have a legal obligation to pay child support… I appreciate that Mr. Lange assets his legal obligation to support Ms. Lange’s child is secondary to Mr. Tait’s obligation. However, the obligation of multiple parents to support a child are joint and several.”
Noting that the purpose of child support is to ensure every child enjoys a standard of living commensurate with their parents’ income, the court apportioned the respective fathers’ liability using the “top-up” method.
This method recognizes that as the biological parent, Mr. Tait has the primary support obligation. The method starts with the fathers’ combined annual incomes, determines child support owing based on that combined amount, subtracts the amount owing by Mr. Tait based on his income and requires Mr. Lange to pay the difference.
This decision provides a clear template to help mediators help parents determine fair child support in similar cases. It also provides excellent guidance on financial disclosure requirements.
For parents wanting to resolve complex, emotional disputes without incurring the cost, stress and uncertainty of litigation, mediation offers a valuable opportunity to reach affordable, child-focused outcomes.