When Ken Anderson was just 15, his mother, Shirley, made it clear: She didn’t want him anymore.
Ken’s father, a long-haul trucker, had been transferred from Osoyoos, B.C., to the province’s Kootenay region. Although their marriage was rocky, Shirley followed, taking second-youngest son Darryl with her.
Ken was left behind. He had plenty of time to think about it as he wiped bug splatter off car windshields and pumped gas at the local station to make a buck. He says he can’t even remember how many couches he slept on, or how he kept himself going. He just knows he never got to go to a prom, finish high school or even think about college.
The way he sees it, he never really had a mother.
On Aug. 3 and 4, Ken, now 46, will face off in B.C. Supreme Court against the woman who gave birth to him.
Shirley Anderson, 71, is suing Ken and four of his five siblings for parental support. The case has been dragging on for years, but the August hearing should complete it.
Shirley has dusted off a little-used section in B.C.’s Family Relations Act that legally obliges adult children to support “dependent” parents.
The mother relies upon section 90 of the B.C. Family Relations Act:
90. (1)In this section:
“child” means an adult child of a parent;
“parent” means a father or mother dependent on a child because of age, illness, infirmity or economic circumstances.
(2) A child is liable to maintain and support a parent having regard to the other responsibilities and liabilities and the reasonable needs of the child.
Would this claim have a chance in Nova Scotia? The Maintenance and Custody Act includes provisions ordering an adult child to pay support for a “dependent parent” (defined as “a parent who by reason of age, disease or infirmity is unable to provide himself with reasonable needs”):
15. Upon the hearing of an application, a court may order a child who is of the age of majority to pay maintenance for his dependent parent. R.S., c. 160, s. 15.
16. When determining the amount of maintenance to be paid for a dependent parent the court shall consider
(a)the reasonable needs of the dependent parent;
(b)the ability of the dependent parent to contribute to his own maintenance; and
(c) the reasonable needs and ability to pay of the child obliged to pay maintenance. R.S., c. 160, s. 16.
17. An order may be made against a child of a dependent parent whether or not an order is in force in respect of any other child of the parent.
In either province, the mother would have to establish that she is “dependent” as defined by the section. Then, the question is whether “the reasonable needs of the child” allows the court to refrain from ordering an abandoned child to support the parent. Here’s hoping.