Man’s estranged wife ordered to pay child support
Single male father struggles with cost of three children
The Nunavut Court of Justice caught a brief glimpse of the desperate lives led by Iqaluit’s working poor last month, in a case concerning a man’s quest for child support from his estranged wife.
At the end of it all, the man will get $376 a month starting Nov. 1, to be paid by his wife, who until now has deliberately avoided work.
Justice Earl Johnson issued the order Oct. 14, in a written judgment, after looking at evidence presented at a hearing held Sept. 8.
The Iqaluit man, known as “T.M.”, and the woman, known as “N.O.”, have been married for 18 years, but because of “matrimonial problems,” the woman left her husband about two years ago to move in with another man, who now supports her.
Since then, T.M. has provided for the couple’s three children on a net income of only $2,451 a month, which he earns through a full-time job. At the same time, he’s paying off a $16,725 debt that both partners racked up in the years they lived together.
A financial statement that T.M. filed in court shows that his monthly expenses are $2,782. That means T.M. is $331 short, every month, of what he and his three children need to survive.
In an agreement that T.M. and N.O. reached in August of 2003, the woman agreed T.M. would get formal custody of the children. Instead of paying child support, she agreed to provide regular babysitting services so that T.M. could keep his full-time job.
But the woman did not keep her end of the bargain. She provided only sporadic babysitting services, causing frequent interruptions to T.M.’s work schedule.
“She is not contributing to the support of her children as she is legally obligated to do. The applicant was prepared to accept services from the respondent instead of money, but that agreement has not worked out because of the actions of the respondent,” Johnson said in his judgment.
So to cope with this, T.M. now has to find more money from his limited income to pay for a babysitter.
At the same time, his estranged wife refused to find a job, apparently to avoid paying child support.
“I am also satisfied that the respondent is deliberately avoiding employment. She is motivated to remain unemployed because of her personal feelings toward the applicant and her disagreement with how he spends his money,” Johnson said in his judgment.
In the hearing, Johnson heard evidence showing that up until three years ago, the woman did work, earning $10 to $12 an hour, which produces an annual income of about $19,500 to $23,400 a year.
Taking vacation and sick time into account, Johnson estimated that N.O. ought to be able to earn at least $18,000 a year, and can afford to pay her husband $376 a month for child support.
But the judge did not order her to turn over the proceeds of a $13,000 bingo jackpot that her new boyfriend won this past February.
When T.M. heard about that, he thought that it was N.O., and not her boyfriend who had won the prize, so he asked the court to freeze half of it until a judge could make a decision on whether or not to give it to him for child support.
Johnson said, however, that because of a past court decision in the NWT, lottery winnings cannot be taken into account in determining maintenance payments. He then ordered that the $6,500 in frozen money be released.