February 5, 2000
Another deadbeat slips the net
Despite court rulings, father not forced to pay upBy Dale Brazao and Patricia Orwen
Toronto Star Staff Reporters
|DALE BRAZAO/TORONTO STAR|
|IN ARREARS: Marvin Davids says he's been ``ruined'' and now works for his father at an Etobicoke business.|
A Toronto renovator whom the courts said was prepared to ``lie and cheat'' to avoid paying support to his former wife and four children continues to shrug off tens of thousands of dollars he still owes them.
An Ontario court in 1998 found Marvin Davids, 51, had an ``imputed income'' of $168,000 a year and was about $130,000 in arrears in support and other payments. He has made just two payments totalling $450 to his family since last October, his ex-wife says.
And Esther Davids says the province's beleaguered Family Responsibility Office has yet to use any of its enforcement weapons against him - including garnisheeing wages or suspending driver's licences.
But Marvin Davids describes himself as a ``ruined man'' who has had to declare personal bankruptcy.
``I've got to rebuild now. I'm 51 years old. . . . Now what do you want me to do? What should I do?'' he told The Star.
``He's getting away with this because the government isn't doing its job and making him pay,'' says Esther Davids, who stayed home during most of the couple's 24-year marriage to raise their children, who now range in age from 16 to 24.
``They haven't suspended his driver's licence or taken him back to court. It's a farce,'' says Davids, 48, who recently took a $10-an-hour job at a car rental agency to make ends meet.
She estimates she has spent about $250,000 in her five-year legal battle with her ex, which included an eight-day trial and the hiring of forensic accountants.
Interviewed outside the DreamMaker Bath and Kitchen store in Etobicoke yesterday, Marvin Davids blamed his ex-wife, her lawyer and their $300,000 ``war chest'' for his downfall.
``They've ruined me,'' he says.
``I was living with this woman for 30 years and she has everything that we ever had. She's got the bank accounts, the real estate. My kids . . . she's got them against me.''
Davids says he pays what he can in support, when he can.
Once the head of a prosperous construction company, he says he's been reduced to working for his father, who took out a $50,000 loan to start the bathroom and kitchen renovation business.
Brendan Crawley, a spokesperson for the attorney-general's office, which is responsible for the Family Responsibility Office, said yesterday the Privacy Act prevents him from discussing details of the Davids case.
The office, which is staggering under the weight of more than 170,000 cases - 75 per cent of which are in arrears - is the focus of intense public anger and frustration.
In a recent report, Ontario auditor Erik Peters noted the debt owed by the province's deadbeats has grown by half a billion dollars to $1.2 billion over five years.
Peters found the office was poorly managed and often failed to use enforcement tools available under the law. In one instance, 11 staff members were working on the same case. Peters also found the office wasted $2.3 million on computer consulting services that didn't correct deficiencies.
Hundreds of men and women have phoned and e-mailed The Star since last Saturday's edition profiled the secret life of one deadbeat dad.
That man, Mark Suddick, 38, of Markham owes his former wife and daughter more than $100,000. He has made one payment of $140 since a court ordered him to pay support eight years ago.
The agency had shelved the Suddick case and notified his former wife they could not locate him or any of his assets. The Star found Suddick in less than a week, working as a parts delivery man, earning $400 a week.
At a press conference earlier this week, Attorney-General Jim Flaherty admitted the ministry could do a better job of enforcing court orders.
Their divorce was finally granted in July, 1998, after a bitter eight-day trial, a significant part of which the trial judge, Mr. Justice Bryan Shaughnessy, said was taken up determining Marvin Davids' true income and assets.
``Regretfully, I find that Mr. Davids has unequivocally demonstrated a profound lack of consideration for his family, and that it is highly unlikely that he will pay periodic child and or spousal support,'' Shaughnessy wrote in his judgment of July 3, 1998.
``I find that he has deliberately diverted assets to avoid seizure of them to satisfy support orders. He has consistently manipulated both his income and his assets for no other purpose than to defeat court orders.
``The fact that he has alienated several of his children appears to be of little importance to him.''
Shaughnessy also found that Davids had transferred his shares in his construction company to his parents and transferred his vehicles to his father's name.
``I find that Mr. Davids was not a credible witness. His testimony is replete with fabrication and deception.''
Shaughnessy determined that Davids had an ``imputed'' income of $168,000 a year and awarded Esther Davids $5,524 a month in spousal and child support. Those payments were to have begun in July, 1998.
Esther says he's made payments totalling about $36,000 and still owes about $74,000.
Marvin Davids appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal, claiming the trial was unfair. He lost.
The three judges who heard the case later wrote that Davids was ``determined to give his wife and children as little as possible and was prepared to lie and cheat to achieve that goal.''
`He was determined to give his wife and children as little as possible and was prepared to lie and cheat to achieve that goal.'
Since then, Davids, who now shares a five-bedroom Thornhill home with his new wife and baby, has only paid $450, his ex-wife says.
During the past four months, she has become desperate. She says she has repeatedly contacted the Family Responsibility Office asking them to enforce her court order. She has provided the agency with Marvin's home and office addresses, phone numbers and copies of the court orders, she says.
The office, which is mandated to channel support money from payers, mostly fathers, to spouses and children, has come under fire from parents who are owed money and opposition parties at Queen's Park.
Esther Davids' frustrations were echoed by the hundreds of parents who called The Star in the wake of last week's investigation into Suddick.
``They are completely hopeless,'' said Davids. ``You can never get through on the phone. They don't have a counter you can go to talk to someone. If you're lucky to get through you get someone who knows nothing about your case and reads the information from a computer screen.
She says she can't understand why the ministry, which has the power to revoke driver's licences, has not done so in her ex-husband's case given the court orders in which four judges concluded Marvin Davids was avoiding paying support.
``I'm amazed they don't take away licences,'' Davids says. ``If you don't pay your Highway 407 toll bill, you can't renew your licence. But if you don't pay child support nothing happens.
``I guess the highway is more important than the kids.''
Anxious parents who call the ministry hotline for updates on their cases are greeted with a taped message saying the volume of calls is running at 2,500 a day and asking them to call only once a week.
Davids says the government's failure to collect the support owed her family is devastating her children. The house they grew up in must be sold to comply with a court order.
Sari, 20, a first-year Seneca College student and the second youngest of the children, says she is often forced to go hungry.
``Half the time now, I don't eat lunch because I don't have the money and I don't want to ask my mother,'' says Sari, who is not speaking to her father.
``We were very well off when I was growing up,'' she adds. ``I've had to stop karate. I can't pay for it. . . . It really sucks to be in this situation. It's stupid. I don't understand why he is allowed to get away with this.''
Delinquent parents can be ordered to support older children throughout their post-secondary education.
In their October, 1999 appeal decision, Justices Jean Labrosse, David Doherty and Dennis O'Connor of the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the lower court's findings that Davids had done everything in his power to avoid paying support.
In their 10-page decision, the judges wrote:
``It is clear from a review of the trial judge's reasons, that the husband's problem at trial was not that he was unrepresented. His real problem was that he was determined to give his wife and children as little as possible and was prepared to lie and cheat to achieve that goal.''
Davids also paid $2,313 to have a private detective follow his oldest child, Joanna, for two days at The University of Western Ontario to prove she wasn't going to class, and cut off her support.
Esther Davids says her eldest daughter wasn't in class because she was sick with mononucleosis.
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