Reviewing the Mrs. Kollmuss and Mr. Kollmuss case law BCSC 709 (CanLll) 2012, we will examine the judge’s assessment of a matrimonial dispute regarding health and care expenses related to a child with disability when parents are divorcing.
In this case, Mrs. Kollmuss, the mother of a child with a disability, is seeking various forms of relief from her ex-husband to help support her child.
Mrs. Kollmuss and Mr. Kollmuss had two children together, Nicholas who was 19 years old, which is healthy and independent and Curtis, who is 16 years old.
Curtis requires constant supervision and care, as he is disabled.
Curtis has Bardet-Biedl syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder, with highly variable symptoms, which may include retinal degeneration, obesity, reduced kidney function, polydactyly (extra digits of the hands or feet) among many other features).
He is legally blind and is expected to fully lose his vision by the time he is 20 years of age. He has scoliosis and epilepsy with absence seizures, Stereotypic Movement Disorder, and is functioning at the mental age of a 5-year-old. He also has problems with his hips, legs, and feet, affecting his mobility.
In 2010 Mrs. Kollmuss and Mr. Kollmuss got divorce. Following the separation, it was agreed that Curtis would reside in the family home with his mother, as both parents would like to keep him out of government facilities.
Additionally, it was agreed that Mr. Kollmuss would pay child support, spousal support, special needs summer camp, and 70% of Curtis’s day care.
It was agreed that in the instance that the house was sold, 60% of earnings would go to Mrs. Kollmuss and 40% would go to Mr. Kollmuss.
Mrs. Kollmuss disputed the agreement for the support and distribution of equity from the family home, as she claims that the cost of supporting Curtis, in a way that both parties want, is greater than what’s being provided.
When making decisions in this case, the judge considered what was known about Curtis at the time of the trial and what the parties both wish for Curtis.
The judge considered that Curtis attends school Monday to Friday, where he has full-time access to a special needs educator, but this will no longer be the case when Curtis turns 20.
Additionally, it is known that both parties would like him to remain at home with his mother and out of government facilities.
However, Due to the progressive nature of Curtis’s disability, the judge pointed out that there were several “unknowns” that are relevant to each issue being addressed.
These “unknowns” include future funding when Curtis turns 20, and the level of care that will be required of his parents in the near and distant future.
The judge highlights that Curtis’s needs may be to great and costly for his parents in the future, and questioned if Curtis will have access to programs and care that will enable him to live the life that his parents presently hope and plan for him.
Without a Cost of Future Needs report, the judged was forced to base his decision on what was known about Curtis and what the parties both wish for Curtis.
This left the high possibility that both parties will have to return to court in the future, and made it difficult for the parties to plan financially.
In this case, a Life Care Planner could help with calculating expected current and future life expenses of aging and or disability.
The Life Care Plan is a structured, working document that identifies and estimates an injured or disabled person’s current and future needs in the areas of home care, medical, rehabilitation, equipment, medication, transportation, and home/environmental accessibility.
Life care planners are certified rehabilitation professionals and educators. They maintain objectivity and base their recommendations upon research literature, the opinions of consulting team members (physicians, therapists), and patient-specific data.
Each recommendation is tied back to the data collected in the interview or history taken with the client or family, as well as review of the available medical records and information regarding client prognosis. Recommendations consider disability, individual, family, and regional factors.
At GLA we are offering Life Care Plans for individuals with a disability. This can be an important tool to calculate expected future life expenses, due to aging and disability, as it relates to estate planning or estate litigations and in case of family dispute during a divorce.