Canada’s child support system is broken. Women suffer for it.

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The Supreme Court ruled last Friday that retroactive child support payments can’t be cancelled once that child reaches adulthood. This ruling is a positive step forward but doesn’t change the fact that Canada’s child support system is broken.

Statistically, women tend to be the primary caregivers in these cases. While that’s not always the case, it does mean women disproportionately suffer from a system that puts the burden of collecting child support payments on them.

Legally, the child support payer—typically, but not always, the father—is obligated to pay child support. However, much like the Michel v. Graydon case in the Supreme Court ruling, inevitably some of these parents will try to shirk their duties, whether by concealing income or refusing payment entirely. In these events, there are steps for women to take.

But they require money and a lawyer: things financially unstable caregivers can’t necessarily afford.

Even if they can afford them, the consequences for failed child support payments can be minor. Usually, they involve revoking a license or, at the very most, an arrest. However, these punishments aren’t as severe as they should be, especially considering this parent could simply pay bail or have someone drive them around.

At the end of the day, the burden to collect payment falls on the parent who’s already in an economically disadvantaged position. At its heart, this broken system is a women’s issue. We must not only address that but fix it.

A first step is considering that failures of this system are symptoms of the stigma surrounding divorce. Despite how common divorce can be“failed” marriages are still looked down upon. Mothers collecting childcare payments after divorce are often looked down upon by proxy. We need to accept the reality of divorce and put infrastructures in place to support those who need it.

In terms of child support, we need a watchdog system to ensure payments are going to the people they’re supposed to. The government could also act as a mediator by paying primary caregivers directly and collecting payment from the father directly. Funding and overseeing courts is another solution.

Women shouldn’t be at the mercy of the courts when it comes to child support. Canada needs to support its mothers—and its fathers—instead of burdening them.

Journal Editorial Board

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