Leading lawyers and advocates for single parents have joined the New Democratic Party in criticizing the British Columbia government’s policy of reducing the income assistance and disability benefits of parents who receive child support. Under the current system, a dollar-for-dollar deduction is made from these benefits when the recipient receives child support from an ex-partner. The policy allowed the province to cut the amount of benefits paid out by $17 million in 2013.
Lawyers from the Community Legal Assistance Society and West Coast LEAF say that the practice places undue hardship on struggling families and impacts the lives of children. They point out that social assistance payments have not been raised since 2007 and that not all additional income is treated equally by the authorities. Families receiving assistance can earn up to $200 per month from employment without impacting their benefits. The exemption rises to $800 per month for individuals on disability assistance.
Christy Clark, the Premier of the province, takes a different view. She contends that the policy saves taxpayers money in a “difficult” financial climate. Clark added that assistance payments were designed to provide only what is necessary for families to make ends meet rather than a way to “top up” other sources of income. However, she did suggest that the social assistance rates may be raised in the future when financial constraints are not so severe.
Negotiating child support arrangements can be a frustrating and emotionally draining process for parents, and they may be revisited periodically as financial situations evolve. A lawyer with experience in family law may be able to help parents come to an amicable agreement that puts a priority on the best interests of the child. The lawyer could also assist parents who are not receiving agreed-upon child support payments from a former spouse.
Source: Times Colonist, “B.C.’s child-support clawback violates rights, lawyers say“, Lindsay Kines, April 11, 2014
Laughlin & Company Lawyers Mediators
2755 Lougheed Hwy #710, Port Coquitlam, BC V3B 5Y9