Province to include adult children with disabilities in child support law

TheStar.com – News/GTA – Brampton single mother’s successful Charter challenge prompts Ontario to amend child support law.
Nov. 15, 2017.   By

Ontario has introduced an amendment to the Family Law Act that would make all adult children with disabilities — including those whose parents were never married — eligible for child support.

The change was prompted in part by a Charter challenge brought by a Brampton single mother who was fighting for her adult disabled son’s right to continued child support from his father, even though she was never married to the man.

The amendment, part of an omnibus budget bill introduced with the government’s fall economic update Tuesday, comes after a series of Star stories about Robyn Coates’s battle for child support for her son Joshua, a 22-year-old with a developmental disability.

Currently, only adult children who are attending school full-time are eligible for child support under provincial law.

“Our government believes that everyone is entitled to the financial support they need regardless of the makeup of their family,” said Attorney General Yasir Naqvi.

“The proposed change would update Ontario’s Family Law Act to more closely align Ontario’s child support legislation with the Federal Divorce Act as well as with the child support laws in the majority of other Canadian provinces and territories,” he said in a statement.

Ontario and Alberta are the only provinces that don’t include adult children who are ill or disabled under provincial child support laws.

Coates successfully argued Ontario’s law discriminates against unwed parents of disabled children based on the federal law which extends access to child support to adult children “due to illness, disability or other cause.”

After a judge ruled in Coates’s favour in July, a government spokesman said the province would introduce amendments this fall that “would ensure that those who are over 18-years-old but require ongoing financial support are treated the same under both the provincial and federal laws.”

Coates said she is “happy” the government plans to change its child support law as promised, but she feels it still falls short of the federal legislation.

“I am disappointed because it doesn’t mirror the Divorce Act’s inclusive wording that includes children who may still need support for another cause,” she said Wednesday.

“Initially, this was just about Josh. But then I got messages from other parents of children with other conditions and issues that aren’t easily defined as a disability. And all these other individuals need to be recognized as well,” she said. “Children of unmarried parents are still being discriminated against.”

Although Naqvi did not address Coates’s concern, a government source said a ministry review found 90 per cent of federal child support cases based on “other cause” involve an adult child who is in school full-time. Unlike the provincial Family Law Act, federal child support laws don’t specifically provide for an adult child in school, the source noted.

Lawyer Joanna Radbord who acted as an intervener in the Coates case on behalf of LGBTQ+ families and youth, said youth transitioning or coming out and unable to leave the care of a parent cannot be respectfully described as ill or disabled and should be allowed to claim support for another cause, as is currently the case under the Divorce Act.

“This omission is bad for everyone because it perpetuates differential treatment between children of married versus unmarried parents,” Radbord said.

Radbord also notes that it puts the onus on the parent caring for a child whose disability may not be diagnosed — or whose disability is being questioned by the non-custodial parent — to go to the “trouble and expense” of getting medical tests before making a claim for continued child support.

“The focus should be on the adult child’s need and well-being, not on how disabled a child may be,” she said.

However, she credited the Star for getting the government to move as far as it did.

“I do think the Toronto Star’s focus on the issue — publicly exposing the government’s discrimination against families with disabilities — and having it on the front page, made a difference,” she said. “I think it made all the difference.”

Lawyer Robert Shawyer, who represented Coates in the case, said it is “terrific” that the government is moving to change the legislation so that it no longer discriminates against disabled children.

However, he is unhappy the government is treating the matter of economic support for Ontarians with disabilities as an “administrative housekeeping matter rather than the important public policy issue that it is.”

“By treating it in such a cavalier fashion, the government is, once again, trying to sweep under the rug the issue of funding for disabled Ontarians,” he said.

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/11/15/province-to-include-adult-children-with-disabilities-in-child-support-law.html

1 Comment

  1. Nice blog.And it is a nice message to the other people. Actually, each person does something to the disabilities children. It is a need to take initiative to everyone for the disabilities students. I support to the disabilities child law. And Everyone supports them because it is very important.

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