Families file lawsuit challenging the claw back of child support

Vancouver [October 15, 2014] – On October 14, 2014, three families and the Single Mothers’ Alliance of BC filed a legal action in the BC Supreme Court to challenge the claw back of child support payments from families on income and disability assistance in BC. The case alleges that deducting child support from families on assistance violates their right to equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The claw back means that my four year old daughter doesn’t get to benefit from the child support her dad pays,” said Rachel Goodine, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “The support could really improve my daughter’s life – that is what child support is intended to do, and it is supposed to be the right of the child -- but because I am on disability assistance, she doesn’t get that chance.”

“Because it is clawed back from our monthly disability assistance, child support payments provide no benefit for my son,” said Jennifer Brice, another plaintiff in the case. “Worse, though, is that it actually makes things harder for us because, when the payments are not consistent, our monthly income fluctuates a great deal. It’s already very difficult to make ends meet on such a low income, and that just makes it harder.”

“Other kinds of families are better able to earn other kinds of income and they are allowed to keep some of it before it is deducted from their income or disability assistance,” said Viveca Ellis of the Single Mothers’ Alliance of BC, another plaintiff. “Meanwhile, these vulnerable children have an opportunity for better lives through their child support, but they are not allowed to benefit from it and their parents experience additional financial consequences.”

“This issue impacts thousands of families in British Columbia,” said Kendra Milne, lawyer for the plaintiffs. “The children in these families pay the consequences because they are unable to benefit from the income of their paying parent the way other kids can. This goes against the entire purpose of our child support scheme, which is to allow kids to benefit from the income of both parents during their childhood.”

The case will argue that the deduction of child support payments from income and disability assistance is unconstitutional because it conflicts with the purposes of the child support system, it denies the children of parents on income or disability assistance the right to benefit from their child support, and it has a disproportionately negative impact on parents with disabilities and single mothers.

The plaintiffs are represented by Kendra Milne of the Community Legal Assistance Society and Alison Latimer of Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP.

Media Contact: 

Kendra Milne, Lawyer, Community Legal Assistance Society, 604.673.3108, kmilne [@] clasbc.net