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Wednesday, June 21, 2000

$17,000 a month is too much child support: court
Zev Singer
Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA - The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that $17,000 a month is too much for one child to receive in support payments.

Toronto businessman Jeffrey Tauber will receive a new trial to determine how much money he should pay to support his two-year-old son, Samuel.

Last year, Mr. Tauber was ordered to pay $17,000 a month for Samuel. The Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously rejected the ruling this month, but did not settle on a new figure, instead sending the case back to Superior Court for a new trial.

The child care budget submitted by Mr. Tauber's ex-wife included $1,700 a month for a nanny, $750 in babysitting fees and $300 in diapers and baby supplies.

Gerald Sadvari, Mr. Tauber's lawyer, said the key factor in the Court of Appeal decision was the fact that even the original trial judge wanted to set lower payments, but believed there was no choice other than to follow strict formulas for calculation, which assume no theoretical limit to the size of a child-support payment. The more money a divorced, non-custodial parent earns, the more that parent pays.

Mr. Tauber earns at least $2.5-million a year.

Since the original trial, however, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the precedent-setting case of Baker v. Francis, which determined there is an eventual ceiling to the payment size.

"All five judges who have looked at this so far have said that $17,000 is basically unimaginably too high," Mr. Sadvari said, adding that in the next trial his client will argue for a much lower amount.

Mr. Tauber has actually been paying $11,000 per month, after he immediately appealed the original amount and received a partial stay from the Court of Appeal. That amount is still too much, Mr. Sadvari said, for a child "healthy and normal in every respect."

Rodica David, the lawyer for former wife, Michelle Tauber, argued that the Ontario Court of Appeal has not ruled that the amount is too much.

"It appears like a lot of money for one child, is what they said. On a preliminary view, without looking at all the facts, it may be too much, but that doesn't mean that it is too much." In the new trial, Ms. David said, the original amount could be granted again.

The case is an important one in establishing what will happen in cases where the paying, non-custodial parent earns more than $150,000 per year, which is a grey area in the 1997 legislation governing the support-payment formula. The ruling by the Court of Appeal essentially puts power in the hands of trial judges to decide on what is an appropriate amount, without adhering strictly to the mathematics.

"I think that what the court was saying is that children of wealthy parents have the right to enjoy the benefits of that wealth," Ms. David said.

"I think the child is entitled to enjoy the same standard of living that he or she would have enjoyed had the marriage not broken up. You would think Mr. Tauber would want that for his son."

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