Toronto Star

September 20, 1999

Fair division

The Toronto Star

Like Solomon, who was asked how to split a child in biblical times, the Supreme Court of Canada last week said the only answer was to keep the child whole.

The case centred on the two teenage daughters of school teacher Monica Francis and Thomas Baker, her multi-millionaire ex-spouse.

If the girls had lived with their father, they would have enjoyed the lifestyle provided by his vast fortune, estimated at $78 million.

But living mainly with their mother since their parents' separation in 1985, they have shared the more modest lifestyle afforded by her $63,000 income and the $2,500 a month their father paid in child support.

Baker did lavish money on his daughters. He sent them to private school, bought them expensive gifts, and took them on exotic holidays.

But they always went home to their other world.

Since 1987, Francis has been seeking significantly more child support, arguing that her daughters should share on a daily basis in what their father can afford to provide. Baker consistently refused to pay more because he didn't want Francis to reap any indirect benefits from his wealth.

After years of legal manoeuvering, a judge ordered Baker in 1997 to pay $10,000 a month in child support, which is in line with the guidelines set by Parliament that year. The amount was upheld on appeal, and re-affirmed last week by Canada's highest court.

In answer to Baker's obvious resentment of his former wife, the Supreme Court reiterated the sage conclusion of the appeal court judge that ``the economic well-being of children cannot be separated from that of the parent with whom they live because households tend to function as integrated economic and social units.''

With this judgment the court has reaffirmed the right of children to material well-being, despite the poisonous acrimony often associated with divorce.

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