In a recent Ontario support case, the court rejected a mother’s argument that she was unable to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Father Brings Motion to Change Support Obligations
The parents separated on January 1, 2015, after a 21-year marriage. They had three children.
The father worked as an orthopedic surgeon and had been the primary income-earner throughout the marriage. The mother worked as a speech pathologist, though only for limited hours.
In a 2018 court order, the father’s income was accepted at $652,000 and the mother’s income was imputed at $50,000. The court had ordered the father to pay the mother monthly child support of $4,452, and monthly spousal support of $11,162.
Since the 2018 court decision, the parents’ two older children had graduated from their post- secondary studies in the United States, and their youngest child had begun his post-secondary studies. The mother had relocated to the United States and had experienced health issues.
In 2020, the father brought a motion to change his child and spousal support obligations towards the wife, citing material changes in circumstances.
Mother Claims Lower Income Due to COVID-19 Pandemic
In her arguments relating to her income, the mother submitted that her health had deteriorated, and she was unable to earn an income at the level imputed in 2018.
Additionally, the mother submitted that due to her health concerns, it was not safe for her to be delivering in-person speech language therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The father argued that despite the COVID-19 pandemic and her health, the mother could provide speech language therapy virtually. He submitted that by providing her services online, she could expand the reach of her business and see more clients.
In response, the mother claimed that her education, training and experience did not support a conclusion that she was qualified to offer tele-therapy. She stated that, before COVID-19, “it was not readily used in urban cities…nor taught in any grad school classes.” The mother further submitted that tele-therapy was mainly for younger speech language specialists who were familiar with computers; she, in turn, was not technologically savvy.
Court Rejects Mother’s Argument
At the outset, the court held that the child support orders would be revisited due to the change in circumstances of the children, in particular because the two oldest children had completed their post-secondary education in the United States, which had represented a large expense.
Consequently, the court also examined the father’s spousal support obligations.
The court first concluded that the father’s income for support purposes in 2018 was $670,000, and in 2019 was $658,000.
With regards to the mother’s income, the court accepted that the mother had health issues and had to take extra precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the court stated:
“In effect, the [mother]’s argument is that she is too set in her ways to learn a new approach to delivering speech language therapy…
The [mother] is an intelligent woman and an experienced speech language pathologist. There is no reason she cannot learn to deliver tele-therapy. Moreover, she continues to have an obligation to do what she can to be become self-supporting. She still has many years of working life ahead of her and, at least during this pandemic, she can learn to deliver speech language therapy remotely.
Accordingly, I am not satisfied on the evidence that her health does not allow her to work at the level I imputed at trial. Nor am I satisfied that she is unable to learn to deliver speech language therapy remotely.”
As a result, the court rejected the mother’s argument that she was unable to work remotely and imputed her income at $50,000.
At Feigenbaum Law, our goal is to help you move forward following the breakdown of a relationship while retaining as much financial stability as possible and ensuring your children are provided for. Mark Feigenbaum is able to counsel his clients on all potential risks that may result from a family law dispute, not just those related strictly to the breakdown of a marriage. Contact Mark online or call him at (416) 777-8433 or toll-free at (877) 275-4792 to book a consultation.