Since the theore-tical victory of the homo-family proponents in a case known as M v H a few years back, certain facts and myths have been oozing their way outward into the queer communities. They are not all accurate.
Consider this a quick public service column: things you should know about how Ontario courts will happily make decisions about your (ex)relationships without giving you much choice.
As the odds of getting into the perfect, permanent relationship – where you both live together happily until your 90s and then die at the same time during the peak of an interesting tantric sex act – are about the same as the odds of your becoming a millionaire on a TV game show, today’s column is being delivered by the stars of quiz TV.
(But first a trivia question: What do the initials “M” and “H” stand for?)
Host: For $500, the answer is Child Support. Contestant: What do you have to pay whether or not you had any biological or emotional connection with the conception of a child?
Voiceover: Indeed, it’s true. If you live with a child for more than a few days and treat it with as much decency as you’d treat your girlfriend’s cat (feed it if she’s coming home late, pat it when it climbs all over you, let it in or out when it meows by the door, or, gods forbid, take it to the vet when she can’t make the appointment) the chances are good that the courts will decide you had a parental relationship with the child. Since child support belongs to the child, not the person with whom the child is living, a child can collect from more than one parent without any accusations of golddigging or polygamy. So, just because another birth parent is out there paying, and getting court-ordered access, doesn’t mean you can’t end up on the hook as well.
Three happily bouncing contestants have been summoned down from the studio audience. (And who among us can claim never to have watched game shows just for the bouncing?) The contestants continue to bounce in place while the smiling host introduces them.
Host: All three of you had rocky relationships with your parents when you were young. Amber, you were thrown out of your parents’ home when you were 15 after you were caught kissing the preacher’s daughter. Brittany, you spent four years institutionalized and being electroshocked because they thought it would cure your lesbianism. And you, Chris-now-Christie, had a father who beat you for half an hour before and after school while your mother prayed their god would make you want to wear men’s clothing.
(Studio audience sniffles and sighs on command.)
Host: Now, of course, you’re all successful executives or entrepreneurs, living happily fulfilled lives in the orientations and genders of your choice!
(Studio audience applauds and cheers on command.)
Host: And now for our first question of the day: Picture your parents today… older, retired, living on pensions that don’t quite make ends meet. Do you really think you owe them anything after they made your childhoods a living hell? Of course not! But that’s not the question – smart shoppers know that sometimes the correct cost is the one the government makes you pay. The answer that is nearest to the correct cost will earn you $1,000, and advancement to the next round.
(Close-up pan of contestants gripping their markers nervously.)
Host: You have 20 seconds to think and then write your answer to the question: “What percentage of your salary will the court give your parents when they bring an application for parental support against you?”
(Studio audience cheers and shouts random numbers on command while the countdown music plays.)
Host [faking gasp of surprise]: It’s a three-way tie! You all think you owe exactly 0 percent! Unbelievable! Well, since it’s a tie, none of you are closest, but we’ll bring on Mr Voiceover to tell us the correct answer anyway.
Mr Voiceover: That’s a tough question, Host. The courts themselves are not quite sure. The law says: “Every child who is not a minor has an obligation to provide support, in accordance with need, for his or her parent who has cared for or provided support for the child, to the extent that child is capable of doing so.”
Sometimes the courts don’t award support to parents who abandoned their children, but their approach is flexible. As one judge put it: “Care should be taken to avoid measurements like a minimum or maximum approach. The test should be: What care and support for children would reasonably have been expected from a parent in the circumstances in which the family found itself?”
And we all know that some pretty unusual measures are considered “reasonable” responses for people who find themselves in “queer” circumstances. I would not be at all surprised to find that there are judges who would accept a parenting version of “homosexual panic” as a reasonable defence to just about any mistreatment of gay children in the 1980s or earlier.
(Host and studio audience chuckle, contestants cry or shake their fists angrily depending on appropriate gender stereotype.)
Host: Time for a commercial break, but we’ll be back with three more contestants on the Cost Is Correct!
And, gentle readers, that’s all for this month’s irreverence. The answer to today’s trivia question is coming up next, and, if you want to blame someone for this article, it’s the grandmother’s fault for letting me watch daytime TV when I was home sick from school.
(TRIVIA ANSWER: “M” & “H” are the initials of the surnames of the ex-couple’s original lawyers: Martha McCarthy and Julia Holland.)