In a case we first wrote about in August 2020, regarding a father who had a long history of avoiding his court-ordered child support obligations, the father has since been found guilty of contempt of court. Just last month, the court sentenced the father to prison for his actions, issuing the longest sentence for the avoidance of child support in Canada’s history.

Father Largely Evaded Support Orders for 13 Years

Michael Power and his former wife Angela split in 2007, and they shared two young children at the time. At the time of the divorce, the father was ordered to pay support in accordance with his income, which as of 2015, was determined to be $260,000 per year. However, during the period between 2007 and 2015, Power had paid a total of just $21,000 in support. His arrears at the time amounted to almost $250,000.

In 2015, Power was held in contempt of court for his defiance with respect to the court order. While he enjoyed a very comfortable income, his former spouse was left to work up to three jobs at a time to make sure she could provide for her children. The sentencing judge in this most recent decision summed up Power’s actions over the years as follows:

Mr. Power made only token efforts to support his children. He foisted his obligation onto his former wife and made his children dependent on the charity of his parents. His father was in his 70s and his mother was retired. His children were school-aged. From the time they were 6 and 12 until they were 15 and 19, these children did without proper financial support from their father, an IT professional, while they were supported only by their mother who had no professional qualifications.

Father Faces Consequences Following Arrest Four Years After Warrant Issued

Power was fuond in contempt of court in 2015, and was scheduled to appear for sentencing that October, however he departed for Denmark with his new wife and child. His former wife and her lawyer worked to have his identification cancelled, and notified Danish immigration authorities. He was eventually deported back to Canada in February 2019, but local authorities were not aware of his location in the country. This is where things stood in our last post, with Power’s former wife bringing an action against the province of Nova Scotia for payment of the arrears owing to her.

Since then, Power was finally arrested in November of 2020. In his sentencing hearing just last month, Power argued he was financially unable to purge his contempt by paying his arrears. If he had been able to demonstrate that, the Court would have not been permitted to sentence him to prison. When sentencing a person to prison for contempt, the person can pay what they ow and have the prison sentence dropped.

However, the Court was unconvinced of Powers’ inability to pay for the following reasons:

  • [Power and his current wife] valued their home at $300,000 in 2016.  There is no evidence of its current value. 
  • In 2015, the Court made a finding that Power had moved his affairs offshore. There was no evidence presented to challenge this.
  • Power has been employed at various times in the past 5 years, including while he was in Denmark between August 2015 and February 2019.  During this time, he paid only $3,237 in child support (inclusive of payments directly for the children’s expenses).  Not paying child support should have resulted in savings for him.

The Court expressed it’s feelings about Powers’ actions as follows:

Mr. Power has not accepted responsibility for his actions, though he has come to understand the consequences of them.  He has not attempted to purge his contempt.  He continues to blame his situation on the efforts of Angela Power and MEP to collect the children’s support, rather than his own failure to pay it…I don’t need to use adjectives like “shameful”, “egregious”, or “flagrant” to describe Mr. Power’s behaviour.  The dullest description of his actions doesn’t disguise the depths of his disregard for the court and his children.

As a result, the Court ordered a precedent-setting sentence of four and a half years in prison, unless Powers is able to purge his contempt by paying what he owes.

The family law lawyers at Mincher Koeman are exceptionally experienced with respect to child and spousal support awards following the breakdown of a relationship. We will work with you to ensure that you receive a support award that accurately reflects the true financial positions of the parties. Contact our office today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or contact us online.

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