The Ontario Superior Court of Justice was asked this question recently in the case of Childs v Childs, 2015 ONSC 4036.
At the time of the litigation, Eileen Childs was 88 years old and suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and other health challenges. Eileen was therefore incapable of managing her property and her personal care. Eileen had four adult children. It was Eileen’s wish to remain in her own home and not be placed in a care facility, and so one of her children, Caroline, volunteered to live with and care for her. There was no dispute that Caroline dutifully cared for her mother and provided whatever assistance she required, and that during Caroline’s care, Eileen’s wellness and well-being improved.
Caroline wanted to be compensated for her efforts. Her other siblings disputed that she was entitled to compensation at all, or if she was entitled to compensation, they disputed the amount she was claiming. The position of the other siblings was simply that “looking after your mother is what you do, although you should not be out of pocket”.
As such, Caroline brought an application to determine the quantum of compensation. She claimed $133,000 in compensation for a period of care extending slightly over two years, and a salary of $53,620 per year going forward.
In coming to his decision, Justice Tranmer considered that while Eileen had significant assets, her need for future care would increase over the coming years.
Justice Tranmer ultimately found that a sum of $25,000 was appropriate for the two years of care provided by Caroline. Beyond this, Justice Tranmer declared that Caroline should receive an honorarium of $500 per month as Eileen’s “manager of personal care”.
Justice Tranmer explained, “A child should not be paid to care for an ailing mother. Eileen Childs was not paid for raising her four children… Lawyers make reference to the phrase ‘natural love and affection.’ That is what children are owed and deserve and are entitled to from their parents and parents are owed and deserve and are entitled to from the children.”
Justice Tranmer noted that there was no evidence that Caroline had suffered any loss because of the care she provided to her mother; for example, that she left a well-paying job.
Justice Tranmer included the following note that should be carefully considered by anyone involved in a family dispute:
Caroline should not have brought this claim to court to litigate against her family, but she should not have had to do so either. The $150,000 incurred by this family for legal fees could have been more constructively utilized within the family. The litigation also took a toll on all concerned emotionally. We have heard submissions that Eileen is upset by this family feud.