Lawyer wins constitutional challenge in case involving support for disabled adults

Posted
July 12, 2017
Article Source
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An Ontario woman and her lawyer have succeeded in a constitutional challenge, obtaining child support for a disabled adult child of unmarried parents, who is not attending school full time.

The case Coates v. Watson involves Robyn Denise Coates and her adult son, Joshua Coates, who has DiGeorge syndrome, which causes physical and mental health issues.

As previously reported in Law Times, the case focused on the difference between the federal Divorce Act, which states that children with disabilities can obtain child support once they are adults, regardless of if they are in school or not, and s. 31 of Ontario’s Family Law Act, which states that every parent has an obligation to provide support only if the child is a minor or in school full time.

On July 7, Justice William Sullivan ruled that s. 31 of the Family Law Act violated Robyn and Joshua Coates' Charter rights.

Sullivan stated that s. 31 is a "provision [that] 'widens the gap' between historically disadvantaged groups and the rest of society," thereby expanding the definition of what it means to be a child for the purpose of child support.  

"Disabled children of unmarried relationships, and their residential parents, most often mothers, face economic hardships and insecurity not visited upon those whose parents married. It is substantively discriminatory that children and residential parents have diminished access to financial resources as a result of the parents' marital status," says the ruling.

"Even if the perfect public supports were in place for people with disabilities, the legislative regime here denies access to child support to 'illegitimate' children in contrast to 'legitimate' children, sending the message that the claimant families are less worthy of respect, concern and consideration.

This offence to dignity is substantively discriminatory." 

Read more: Lawyer wins constitutional challenge in case involving support for disabled adults