Toronto Sun

Friday, September 17, 1999

Rich dad must pay

High court defines child support guidelines for wealthy

By MARK DUNN, OTTAWA BUREAU
The Toronto Sun
OTTAWA --  A Toronto millionaire must continue to pay $10,000 a month in child support, the Supreme Court says in a ruling that still gives a break to the rich.

Yesterday's decision is the first time the top court has addressed federal child support guidelines.

The high court only looked at guidelines affecting non-custodial parents with incomes exceeding $150,000 -- so the judgment doesn't effect most Canadians.

The court was responding to the case of Thomas Baker, an entrepreneur -- with a net worth of about $78 million -- who earns just under $1 million annually in salary.

The former CEO of Seven-Up Canada owns several luxury cars, a chalet at Whistler and a 12,000-square-foot mansion in Toronto's Bridle Path neighbourhood.

Baker had contested the amount of money he pays his ex-wife every month to support their two children.

Monica Francis earns $63,000 as a teacher and lives in a modest Toronto neighbourhood and had argued her kids should enjoy a lifestyle like their father.

Baker argued the amount exceeded the needs of his two teenage daughters and wanted the amount cut.

At issue before the court was the formula used under federal child support guidelines to calculate how much a rich parent should pay to the custodial parent.

For the wealthy, judges can order payments amounting to 1.04% a month of annual income unless a judge deems the formula "inappropriate."

In its 9-0 ruling, the Supreme Court struck down an Ontario Court of Appeal decision that defined "inappropriate" to mean "inadequate," which the lower court said meant that payments can only go up if contested.

The high court, however, ruled that "inappropriate" really means "unsuitable" and that support payments can be adjusted up or down.

Writing for the majority, Justice Michel Bastarache said parents who dispute how much they pay or receive must show "clear and compelling" evidence for why the amount should be altered.

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