deadbeat dad citation allowed
February 9, 2007 7:15pm CST
Contempt citation for deadbeat dad justified: SCC Updated Fri. Feb. 9 2007 2:02 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a contempt citation and jail sentence handed to a wealthy plastic surgeon who has refused to pay support to his ex-wife and children after moving to the Bahamas. In a 9-0 decision, the country's top court ruled that an Ontario Court of Appeal judge had the power to hold Dr. Kenneth Dickie in contempt and jail him for 45 days. "The Supreme Court has sent a very strong message to lower courts to go ahead and use that (weapon),'' said Harold Niman, lawyer for Dickie's ex-wife, Leaka. Dr. Dickie stopped making payments of $11,500 monthly to his ex-wife and their three children in 2002, shortly after moving to the Bahamas with his new wife. There, he reportedly continues to live a lavish life as the operator of the Bahamas Institute of Plastic Surgery, with a luxury estate on the water, a Porsche and a Mercedes. His ex-wife went to court and obtained a judgment ordering her former husband to pay the money owed her with a letter of credit for $150,000. But Canadian court orders can't be legally enforced in the Bahamas. Dr. Dickie returned to Canada to appeal the order at a hearing in 2004. That's when he was cited for contempt of court for failing to fulfill his obligations and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. Dickie served the sentence and appealed. A year ago, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled the judge in the hearing did not have the power to find Dickie in contempt, let alone send him to jail. Leaka Dickie appealed to the Supreme Court. Dr. Dickie's lawyer, Rochelle Cantor, argued that sending parents to jail for failing to pay their bills is a "Dickensian concept" reminiscent of debtors' prison. Leaka Dickie's lawyer, Niman, argued that judges need a wide range of powers to deal with spouses who do not fulfill their financial obligations and that the use of contempt citations is justified. The Supreme Court agreed with Niman and said the contempt citation should stand. But it is unclear whethere Leaka Dickie and her children will ever see their money. Dr. Dickie has returned to the Bahamas and has still not paid his court-ordered payments to his ex-wife, who now lives in St. Albert, Alta. The children are now in their mid-20s. D. Smith, a lawyer with Smith Family Law Group, told Canada AM before the ruling that Dickie should probably have asked the court to readjust his payments upon moving to the Bahamas, to avoid this court battle. "If Dr. Dickie had come back to the court and said 'My circumstances have changed, I have less of an ability to pay today. Please adjust my obligations,' the court would never have refused him an audience," she said. "The problem is he didn't do that. He went into default, he stopped paying entirely and never sought to change the support order that had given rise to this obligation and that's where the problem lies." Personally I think this is fair..