N.S. father who didn't pay child support sentenced to 41/2 years
A Nova Scotia man who owes at least $250,000 in court- ordered child support has been sentenced to 4½ years in prison, capping a saga that saw him move to Denmark, be deported back to Canada and then arrested in Montreal on a nationwide warrant.
It appears to be among the longest terms for violating child-support orders ever handed out in Canada.
The judge said it was important to denounce Joseph Power's conduct, both because of its impact on the man's own offspring and to uphold the authority of the courts.
“I don't need to use adjectives like ` shameful,' `egregious,' or ` flagrant' to describe Mr. Power's behaviour,” said Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Jollimore in a recent ruling.
“The dullest description of his actions doesn't disguise the depths of his disregard for the court and his children.”
Lawyer Igor Yushchenko, who represents mother Angela Power, said his legal research was unable to identify a longer sentence for someone who had defaulted on child support.
“It's a very unique case because it's very unusual when a person in a civil case ends up in jail,” he said. “It's also a very unusual case when a person disregards his kids' interest, his wife's interest and, more importantly, doesn't listen to the court … on many occasions.”
But the sentence would be halted as soon as Power managed to “purge” his contempt-of-court citation by paying the child support he owes, said Jollimore.
Yushchenko said he is certain that will happen before very long.
“It's not a matter of him going to jail for 4½ years,” said the lawyer, who handled the file on a pro-bono basis. “It's a matter of coercing him to pay the money. He has money ... I'm very positive that this case will be resolved very soon.”
Evidence entered in court in 2015 indicated that Power was earning $ 260,000 a year at that time, said Yushchenko. Meanwhile, Angela had to work three jobs to make ends meet after they split, and her standard of living was still “reduced substantially,” he said
Power's lawyer could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
After he and his wife divorced, the father paid only about $21,000 in child support between 2007 — when the children were aged six and 12 — and 2015, the ruling indicates. That was $247,000 less than he owed.
Power was finally found in contempt of court in 2015. Since then, he has contributed $ 3,237, less than a month's support under a new order, and has paid nothing since 2018, according to the ruling.
“Mr. Power made only token efforts to support his children,” said Jollimore.
“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.”
Power is an IT professional, while the mother has no professional qualifications, the judge noted.
Power was supposed to appear in court in October 2015 to face sentencing for contempt of court but never showed up, having moved that year with his new wife and son to Denmark.
Angela Power and Yushchenko had the courts cancel his passport and driver's licence, then notified Danish immigration authorities of that fact.
He was deported in February 2019, and arrested on a Canada-wide warrant in Montreal this past November, said Jollimore. His detention allowed the penalty hearing to go ahead, five years after the fact.
The judge said Power offered in 2016 to sell his house and give his ex-wife half of the net proceeds to settle the matter. But Angela Power would have received about $91,000, meaning the father was just “trying to cut a deal that would give him a discount of about 63 per cent on his child support debt,” said Jollimore.
His current wife testified that provincial authorities had determined the couple had no other assets than the house. But the judge said she didn't accept that assertion, citing a previous ruling that Power had moved his financial affairs offshore.
She also noted that he spoke at the hearing last week, and was clearly emotional, but never apologized for his behaviour.
“There was no evidence that Joseph Power had ever expressed any regrets until yesterday afternoon — after he had spent a month in jail.”