J. Absence Or Delay of Reasons For Judgment

Author:Julien D. Payne - Marilyn A. Payne

Page 596

An appeal is from the formal order, not the reasons, and if the formal order reaches a correct conclusion in light of the evidence and the law, the appeal must be dismissed.51While it is not an error, in itself, for a trial judge to give a judgment without indicating the findings of fact and without giving the reasons for a support award, it is highly desirable for a trial judge to give reasons in order to facilitate an appellate court’s task of determining whether

Page 597

the trial judge’s conclusions are supported by the evidence or whether they disclose an error in principle.

The absence of reasons for judgment places the appellate court under a serious disability. If they are not volunteered, counsel proposing to appeal should request the judge to give reasons for judgment to facilitate the appeal.52

A litigant is entitled to adequate, albeit not perfect, reasons for decisions made by a motion judge, even though these judges frequently have heavy daily dockets that require them to quickly decide urgent issues in the face of conflicting and incomplete evidence. A motion judge must give reasons for her decision so that a party can give informed consideration to the advisability of an appeal and interested members of the public can satisfy themselves whether or not justice has been done. The need for reasons is based on the following three rationales:

(i) public confidence in the administration of justice;

(ii) the right of the losing party to know the reasons for having lost; and

(iii) to make the right of appeal meaningful.

The adequacy of reasons must be determined by a functional approach that applies the aforementioned rationales. Where the table amount of child support is ordered for adult children pursuing post-secondary education, an explanation of the specific amount is not required. But where a judge exercises his discretion to fix support for the children under section 3(2)(b) of the Federal Child Support Guidelines, reasons for the amount ordered must be provided. The amount of support ordered pursuant to section 3(2)(b) cannot be determined without findings of fact relating to "the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the child[ren] and the financial ability of each parent to contribute to the support of the child[ren]." Where a motion judge has neither articulated the law nor the evidence relied upon in fixing the amount of support ordered under section 3(2)(b) of the Federal Child Support...

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