In every child support order granted by the Courts in Alberta, it is necessary to include the following clause:
Each party shall provide the other party with a complete copy of his or her income tax return and any notices of assessment and reassessments on or before June 30 of each year, as long as there is a child of the marriage as defined by the Divorce Act. In the event that a party has not filed an income tax return for the previous year, he or she shall provide the other party with copies of his or her T4, T4A and all other relevant tax slips and statements disclosing any and all sources of income, including self-employment income.
Once the Order is granted and signed, many people simply pay the amounts of support ordered therein and fail to abide by this clause and adjust support accordingly. Whether this failure is inadvertent, or on purpose, the failure to exchange financial disclosure can have serious and onerous consequences on either the payor of support, or the recipient.
In SDH v ARH, 2019 ABQB 212, the payor father failed to provide adequate financial disclosure which would have shown that his income had increased beyond the income that was set out in the Order and on which his child support payments were calculated. This resulted in a ten-year period during which the father underpaid child support, without the knowledge of the mother. Eventually, the mother obtained financial disclosure and sought arrears of $26,971 from the father for his underpayment over this period of time. While the courts have stated that it is generally inappropriate to make an award for arrears going back more than three years, in this case they found that the father had engaged in ‘blameworthy conduct’ namely, failing to disclose income increases where he had a court-ordered duty to do so. Ultimately, the father was ordered to pay back these arrears until they were fully paid to the mother, in the amount of no less than $250 per month.
Parties to child support orders should take heed of this case and ensure that they are keeping their financial information up to date to ensure that the proper amount, as prescribed by the Federal Child Support Guidelines, is being paid. This not only ensures that the children in question are being properly provided for, but to protect the parties from being subject to serious financial penalty in the future.