Jail Time for Nova Scotia Father Who Owes More Than $250,000 in Child Support
Nova Scotia father Joseph Power was recently sentenced to four and a half years in prison for violating court orders regarding child support. Power owes at least $250,000 in child support to his ex-wife Angela Power.
Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Jollimore rendered her judgment on December 22, 2020 in Power v Power 2020 NSSC 379. Mr. Power had been found in contempt of court in 2015 but it took 5 years to get him back before the Court in order to impose the appropriate penalty.
The conduct that lead to Mr. Power being found in contempt was more egregious than simply failing to pay child support. After amassing approximately $250,000 in child support arrears and being found in contempt of court, Mr. Power moved with his subsequent wife and their child to Denmark and continued to disregard his court-ordered child support obligations. As a result of his child support arrears and the cancelling of his passport by the Maintenance Enforcement Program, Mr. Power was deported in February 2019. A nation-wide arrest warrant then had to be issued. He was arrested in Montreal on November 20, 2020 and returned to Nova Scotia. By the time the matter was heard, Mr. Power had spent a month in jail.
Justice Jollimore stated that “[t]he focus of a contempt proceeding is far greater than the impact of Mr. Power’s failure to pay support for the children in Ms. Power’s custody because obeying the law and following court orders are the foundation of social order” (para. 2.)
Justice Jollimore remarked that Mr. Power had attempted to blame the Maintenance Enforcement Program and his ex-wife for his failure to pay and did not appear to accept responsibility for breaching the court order. She stated “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” (para. 60.)
Luckily for Mr. Power, Justice Jollimore gave him a “Get Out of Jail Card”- but it isn’t exactly free. If Mr. Purges his contempt by paying the full amount of his arrears, his penalty ceases to be in effect.
Four and a half years may be the longest prison sentence issued for contempt of court related to child support. Justice Jollimore also offered an important reminder for those dissatisfied with their child support orders: “Respect for court orders means following them. If they are thought to be wrong, they are to be appealed. If the circumstances on which they are based have changed, they are to be varied. Until stayed, varied, or overturned, court orders are to be followed.”