People seek out legal advice for many big decisions: Need to sign a contract? Immigrating to a new country? Starting a business? Settling an estate? Going through a separation? Fired from work? Call a lawyer!
However, there is one significant life event where people don't often seek out legal advice: when they enter into a new relationship. Romantic relationships can often become complex legal relationships. One or both parties may not turn their minds to, understand, nor address the legal rights and obligations between them which may arise during the relationship, and more importantly, in the event that the relationship ends.
While some (but not all) people do retain legal counsel at some point in their relationship to prepare a Cohabitation Agreement, or Marriage Agreement/Pre-Nuptial Agreement, this article is a reminder for those about to embark on a more, let's say, casual arrangement this Valentine's Day which may have far reaching legal implications for both parties.
We all recognize that consenting adults can get caught up in the romantic moment. But what if the whirlwind romance leads to a sweet little bundle of joy that wasn't necessarily part of the plan? Before embarking on your (COVID wise) Valentine's Day plans, we are here to provide a friendly reminder of the costs of a one-night-stand:
You may not automatically be a guardian of your child
Parents are generally guardians of their children if they are living together at the time the child is born. However, in BC, a parent who has never resided with his or her child is not a guardian unless:
- section 30 of the Family Law Act applies, which relates to parentage of children who are conceived through assisted reproduction;
- the parent and all of the child's guardians make an agreement providing that the parent is also a guardian;
- the parent regularly cares for the child.
If you are the dad in this scenario and mom gives birth to your child following a casual encounter, do not assume that you are a guardian simply by being the "sperm donor".
Parenting arrangements can be complicated:
Co-parenting with a former partner can be difficult at the best of times; but what about co-parenting with whom you have a fleeting or only casual relationship?
"Parenting arrangements" are the arrangements separated parents make for the care of their children. These include decisions about where children will live, where they will go to school, their religious education, their medical care, and their activities.
When you are deciding on parenting arrangements, communication and understanding are key. The focus must be on the best interests of the child. There is no precise definition of the "best interests of the child", as it will depend on many factors. Every child and family dynamic is different. The factors to consider include:
- the age and stage of development of the child;
- the child's health and emotional well-being;
- the child's views, unless it would be inappropriate to consider them;
- the nature and strength of the relationships between the child and significant persons in the child's life;
- the history of the child's care; and
- the child's safety.
Child support is payable:
Child support is theright of the child, whether your bundle of joy was intentional or not. Child support is required to be paid based on the Federal Child Support Guidelines and a parent's gross annual income from all sources. To demine child support, payors must provide financial disclosure to the recipient each year that child support is payable, which can include:
- personal tax returns;
- notices of assessment and reassessment;
- T4 statements;
- the financial statements of your business or professional practice, other than a partnership; and
- where the payor is a beneficiary under a trust, a copy of the trust settlement agreement and copies of the trust's three most recent financial statements.
Section 7 Expenses are payable:
Section 7 Expenses are paid in addition to child support, in proportion to the incomes of the parties. These include child care costs, medical and dental costs, and expenses for post-secondary education (and much more!).
Family Maintenance Enforcement Program may come knocking:
The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) is a free service in BC. Recipients of child and/or spousal support can register orders and agreements with the program. Once registered, FMEP can takes steps on the child support recipient's behalf to collect child support directly from the payor and provide that payment to the recipient. FMEP's powers are extensive, and include:
- intercepting federal sources of income such as income tax or EI;
- attaching wages, bank accounts or other sources of income;
- canceling a current driver's license or prevent a new license being issued;
- preventing a motor vehicle registration being issued or renewed;
- suspending a passport;
- reporting unpaid maintenance to a credit bureau;
- summoning the payor to a default hearing in court;
- issuing a lien against the payor's personal property or land; and
- charging interest and default fees on late or missed payments.
A word of advice to payors: don't get on the wrong side of FMEP!
This is just a friendly reminder that some decisions have unintended consequences. This Valentine's Day, we hope yours is filled with all of the good kind of surprises! Have fun, be safe, and keep the above in mind!
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.