These are the handouts for the overview lectures I provide on financial provision upon relationship breakdown. The focus here is on the breakdown of status relationships; the final issue, which compares status and non-status relationships was discussed as part of last year’s lectures:
- Issue 1 – (Preliminary matters and) the debate over the normative basis of ancillary relief [handout here];
- Issue 2 – Outline of governing legal principles and case law, including the extension of governing legal principles to marriage between same sex couples and civil partnership [handouts here and here];
- Issue 3 – Private ordering and procedural aspects [handout here];
- Issue 4 – Reform of the law governing ancillary relief [handout here];
- Issue 5 – Comparison between the legal regime governing the financial consequences of the breakdown of status relationships and the approach taken to non-status relationships [comparison chart here and handout here].
To date, the privatization of the costs of social inequalities for women and children has been criticized predominantly from a policy perspective. This article seeks to make a stronger case against remedying social inequalities through private law obligations by addressing the theoretical difficulties with such privatization with a particular focus on familial obligations. I take my core examples from the current Canadian understanding of the spousal and child support obligations. My analysis proposes and proceeds on the basis of a new discourse for obligations traditionally grouped together as “Family Law” obligations: first, interpersonal obligations, which arise from and tie together two citizens through either a single interaction or through their relationship as a whole; second, social obligations, which are owed by the community as a whole to individual citizens. I argue that the persuasive force of the focus on an individual’s responsibility for another’s financial need has obscured the reality of the state’s obligation, the broader social obligation, to respond to this need. I conclude with a discussion of the consequences of my analysis for the future of the spousal and child support obligations. If we deny an expanded role to these support obligations, can we do so in a way that avoids leaving the impoverished in an even more precarious position?
This paper is published in (2008) 22 International Journal of Law, Policy, and the Family 61-90, and also available here.
The Supreme Court of Canada recently heard argument on the circumstances in which retroactive child support orders are justified. The claimants are four Alberta fathers who have been held subject to retroactive support obligations that extend to before the custodial parent’s application for variation of the existing order. The fathers argue that these orders are unfair and not justified by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. Supporting their argument is the position of courts in British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan; these courts have adopted a more restrictive interpretation of the circumstances that justify retroactive orders than has the Alberta Court of Appeal.
This brief comment addresses the critical theory issues before the Court. First, is it the obligation or merely the extent of the obligation that is retroactive? Is the idea of retroactivity in the context of the child support obligation a misnomer? Second, what is the nature of the child support obligation? Third, and consequently, in what circumstances is a retroactive order justified?
This paper is published in (2006) 43 Alberta Law Review 1049, and also available here.