Globe and Mail

Francis plays down significance of Supreme Court child-support victory

$10,034 a month barely enough to pay off some debts, she says

Justice Reporter, The Globe and Mail
Friday, September 17, 1999

Monica Francis has a message for anybody who believes the Supreme Court of Canada handed her the legal equivalent of a lottery win yesterday: They do not understand the reality of being a single parent.

"I know everybody will say, 'Aren't you sitting pretty,'" said the woman at the centre of a celebrated ruling on child support. "I can provide my kids with a nice life based on this -- but that's all. I will be in debt for several more years." The Toronto high-school teacher said that in upholding an award of $10,034 a month in child support, the Supreme Court enabled her to do little more than pay off some of her debts.

Ms. Francis said the monthly payments will allow her to begin saving for her two teenaged daughters to attend university. They will also defray mortgage payments on a $307,000 home she just purchased in Aurora, Ont.

"But why should I always have to justify it?" she asked. "This guy is worth $78-million. This is such a small portion of his income. It is almost ludicrous.

"What some people don't realize is that it takes a tremendous amount of energy to raise children as a single parent," Ms. Francis continued. "It is a real physical and emotional challenge. But I have had to live with people sitting in judgment of me and whether my children should have this."

Recently promoted to head the business education department at a high school in Scarborough, Ont., Ms. Francis was awarded a lump sum of $500,000 in spousal support last year ago by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

She said almost all of it has been consumed by her legal bills. Despite an award of legal costs by the court yesterday, she said, it will only cover about one-tenth of her legal expenses.

Speaking animatedly in the office of her lawyer, Nicole Tellier, Ms. Francis said she has tried to shelter her two daughters over the years from the acrimonious litigation with their father, Toronto lawyer Thomas Baker. She said Lesley and Lauren would not even be told the result of yesterday morning's Supreme Court ruling until after school.

Asked whether they had been anticipating the ruling, Ms. Francis said: "Are you kidding? All they have been anticipating is whether the weekend is coming soon. Kids live in a different world. In spite of everything, they are quite ordinary, great kids."

Ms. Francis said her disgust with her ex-husband reached a new low recently, when Mr. Baker vanished from Lesley and Lauren's lives for the first time.

Mr. Baker had arranged to take them for a vacation in Whistler, B.C. in late August, Ms. Francis said. On the appointed day, the two girls waited in vain for their father to pick them up.

"I felt hurt for them when I saw them sitting there with their suitcases packed," Ms. Francis said. "They kept them packed all weekend, thinking maybe they had gotten the date wrong.

"He hasn't returned our calls since then," she said. "It is as if he fought and fought and fought just for the sake of the fight, but then disappeared once it was over."

Ms. Francis said her children love their father unconditionally. "But when you throw away that kind of unconditional love, to me you're a loser," she said. "I never thought he would do this, and they didn't either. They don't understand it."

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