Access to Justice Challenges: COVID-19 and Support Obligations (Part 2 of 2)

  • July 09, 2020
  • Vanessa Lam

In my Part 1 article, I said that no one can predict the future. But, when the courts resume regular operations, I predict an overwhelming influx of cases competing for the same judicial resources. In addition to unresolved cases that were already in the system pre-COVID-19, there will be new support issues, property complications (including bankruptcies), increased stress and trauma from family violence, and new separations.

Since regular operations were suspended in mid-March 2020, the courts have dealt with an explosion of urgent temporary parenting issues. I have already written about some of the takeaways from the parenting case law. In contrast, the urgent temporary child or spousal support case law has been much more limited. Alex Boland provides an excellent analysis of some of the emerging, and in some ways conflicting, support cases from Ontario. As time goes on, the case law on urgent support issues is growing.[i]

Further, on Friday June 5, 2020, the Ontario government amended a Regulation[ii] that basically allows the provincial maintenance enforcement office to resume driver’s licence suspensions, on or after Monday June 8, 2020. Once this actually starts happening, I predict that Ontario courts will see a flood of support cases.

Courts have understandably held payors to a high standard of disclosure and criticized those who prioritized their own financial needs over those of their dependents. But I worry that some of the most vulnerable families – payors, recipients, and children – lack a clear path to help them resolve support issues.