Case supports deviation from federal guidelines – Nathalie Boutet in Law Times

Creative child support arrangements that stray from the Child Support Guidelines work in certain cases, but some parties prefer to stick with the federal system due to its enforcement powers, Toronto family lawyer Nathalie Boutet tells Law Times.

The article discusses a recent case, Stevenson v. Smit, where the parties recorded an intention to equally share the major expenses for their children in a separation agreement, but after three years, the father defaulted and alleged he could no longer meet the terms of the agreement.

It’s significant, says Boutet, because the arrangements were created in a way that made a lot of sense at the time of negotiation.

“It highlights that people can be creative for the benefit of the children but it has to make sense,” she says in Law Times.

“The husband was uncomfortable making a commitment on a monthly basis because of his low income. This worked well and gave him the freedom to get on with his life. The court told him to keep doing it. When it is no longer suiting your purpose, you can’t renege on a bargain made in full contemplation of your financial future. The court is saying: ‘If you don’t manage your property so your wife can get what you agreed, that’s your problem,’” Boutet says in the publication.

With her practice focusing on mediation, collaboration, and negotiation, Boutet says she often makes arrangements that deviate from the guidelines, “but there has been a fear that the support payer won’t honour his or her obligations.”

While the guidelines have their place in the legal system, Boutet says she welcomes the opportunity to veer away from them.

“With the increasingly frequent shared-parenting arrangement, the (guideline) does not provide a proper straight-line answer,” she tells Law Times. “We need something more creative. People don’t want to deal with each other yearly.”

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