Thursday, September 15, 2022
Jodi Lazare & Kelsey Warr, A Gender-Based Approach to Historical Child Support: Comment on Colucci v Colucci. Canadian Journal of Family Law 2022
In June 2021 the Supreme Court of Canada (the “Court”) released Colucci v Colucci, its second decision in twelve months dealing with the complex subject of historical (commonly referred to as retroactive) child support. The case worked a significant shift in the law, arguably the first major revision to the law since the Court’s initial consideration of historical child support in DBS, in 2006. This comment suggests that Colucci represents a new understanding of the way that claims for historical child support should be considered in Canadian family law. The comment argues that in changing the applicable framework, the Court has endorsed a gendered approach to historical child support law that responds to many of the concerns that flowed from DBS.
Drawing on the text of the decision, as well as relevant case law and scholarship, we outline the theoretical foundations for the changes brought by Colucci, as well as their practical implications. We suggest that in clarifying child support as the right of the child, decreasing the emphasis on certainty for payors, and stressing the necessity of financial disclosure, the Court has feminized the law of historical child support. We explain how, using that feminist lens, Colucci modifies the framework for adjudicating historical child support claims, by creating a presumption in favour of an award in the presence of a change of income, softening the three-year time limit of so-called retroactivity, and repositioning and reconceptualizing the DBS factors which now inform how far back a historical child support award should go. In fleshing out and analyzing these changes, we consider the ways in which Colucci may better serve to promote substantive gender equality in historical child support law by responding to women and children’s lived realities.