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Will child support be reduced if the payor is fired from his job ?

If child support is supposed to be calculated based on income, then it is reasonable to assume that if a person’s income is reduced because of job loss, then child support should also be reduced. But in the case of Aboagye v. Sakyi [2012] O.J. No. 575, Mr. Justice Sherr ruled that if an employee is fired, he cannot avoid child support based on his own misconduct.

In this case, the parents had four children aged 13, 11, 9, and 4 years. The father worked full-time at two different jobs for at least two years prior to the parties’ separation. He had worked as a forklift operator for one employer since 1996, and as a machine cleaner for a second employer since 2007. The father’s Notice of Assessment for 2009 showed that he earned a gross income of $62,500. The father left his second job as a cleaner at the end of June 2010. He continued working as a forklift operator. The father did not pay any child support until the fall of 2011 and accumulated over $17,000 in child support arrears. The father earned $50,755 in 2012. In court, the father testified that he was fired just three days before the trial began. He stated that he was given vacation pay, but no severance payment. He claimed that this dismissal was wrongful and he planned to sue for wrongful dismissal. The mother testified that the father was a liar and that he conspired with his employer to engineer his job loss for this case.

The father’s employer stated that the father was warned twice about poor performance and was dismissed for cause. The employer listed reasons for his dismissal that included:

  1. not following company policy for signing loading lists and work orders;
  2. using his cell phone during company time;
  3. using his cell phone in the loading area and inside loading containers;
  4. being frequently late and absent;
  5. accepting money from customers to perform additional services during company time; and
  6. damaging company property.

The court held that if the employer was justified in firing the father, then the father cannot use his dismissal as grounds for reducing support. Where the loss or reduction in employment income is the result of one’s own actions or misconduct, the support obligations will not be reduced or cancelled. Moreover, the court stated that if the father is correct that he was wrongfully dismissed, he will likely receive a significant income-replacement award.

In the end, the court imputed to the father an income at $41,000 per year, and was ordered to pay child support based on this amount.