Toronto Star

Thursday, June 17, 1999

Girl, 16, sues for parents' support

Honour student is awarded $400 a month as court issues interim judgment

CALGARY (CP) - A 16-year-old girl who moved away from home won the first round yesterday in suing her parents for financial support.

The parents agreed to pay their daughter $400 a month until the matter is later settled. The teenager is asking for $750.

``There's some really interesting legal issues here,'' said the girl's lawyer, Diann Castle. ``The real test is going to be: is this child dependent?''

The Grade 11 student moved from her parents' home last December alleging abuse. She has since lived with a friend's parents, who have given her room and board as well as bus and spending money. The nature of the alleged abuse was never specified.

The girl, who can't be identified under a court ban, was not in court yesterday because she was writing an exam. She is an honour student at a private Calgary high school that has been waiving her tuition costs due to her living difficulties.

``We don't see a lot of children living outside of the home, bringing applications for support against their parents,'' Castle said.

``However, the Alberta government, if they had children in foster care, often go after the parents to pay support to cut down their costs.''

Castle also pointed out that if the girl were a child of divorced parents, the court would likely order one parent to pay for her upkeep, particularly because she is going to school.

``So I'm not sure why a court would treat a child of two parents who aren't divorced any differently than the child of divorced parents,'' Castle said.

``I see the test as dependency, and if the children are dependent, why should the state or welfare pay for these children?

``I don't want to pay for other people's children because they can't get along. The onus is still going to go back to parents.''

Castle is making the child support application under a little-used section of Alberta's Domestic Relations Act that allows children to ask a court to award maintenance payments.

Some teenagers disgruntled with parents will likely watch the case because they, too, may want to leave home and still be supported, Castle conceded.

She said she has faith that the courts will weigh the facts in each case.

Castle said her client anticipates attending university, and will ask that her parents also provide financial support throughout those years.

Castle hopes to settle the case by late August.

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