Teen Sues Parents For
Financial Support

CALGARY (CP) -- A 16-year-old girl who moved away from home won the first round Wednesday in suing her parents for financial support. The parents agreed to pay their daughter $400 a month until the matter is later settled. The teenager is asking for $750. "There's some really interesting legal issues here," said the girl's lawyer, Diann Castle. "The real test is going to be: is this child dependent?"
The Grade 11 student moved from her parents' home last December alleging abuse. She has since lived with a friend's parents, who have given her room and board as well as bus and spending money. The girl, who can't be identified under a court ban, was not in court Wednesday because she was writing an exam. She is an honour student at a private Calgary high school that has been waiving her tuition costs due to her living difficulties.
"We don't see a lot of children living outside of the home, bringing applications for support against their parents, " Castle said. "However, the Alberta government, if they had children in foster care, often go after the parents to pay support to cut down their costs."
Castle also pointed out if the girl were a child of divorced parents, the court would likely order one parent to pay for her upkeep, particularly because she is going to school. "So I'm not sure why a court would treat a child of two parents who aren't divorced any differently than the child of divorced parents," Castle said. "I see the test as dependency, and if the children are dependent, why should the state or welfare pay for these children?
"I don't want to pay for other people's children because they can't get along. The onus is still going to go back to parents." Castle is making the child support application under a little used section of Alberta's Domestic Relations Act that allows children to ask a court to award maintenance payments.
Some teenagers disgruntled with their parents will likely watch the case because they, too, may want to leave home and still be supported, Castle conceded. But she has faith that the court will weigh the facts in determining whether such children should receive ongoing financial support from parents.
Another looming trend will be elderly parents suing their children for support, Castle predicted. "What happens when the pension fund dries up?" she asked. "Who's going to support these people?"
Castle said her client anticipates attending university, and she will ask that her parents also provide financial support throughout those years.
"The reason I'm doing that is if she was a child from divorced parents, our courts generally award support until a child is done university, at least a four-year degree, and there's some arguments where it's been awarded when they've taken their master's and worked on their doctorate." Castle hopes to settle the case by late August.