Nova Scotia

Man who fled to avoid paying child support given 4½-year sentence

The ex-wife of a man who fled for five years to avoid paying child support says she's relieved after his sentencing. Joseph Patrick Power has been sentenced to 4½ years imprisonment.

Joseph Patrick Power could be released as soon as he pays the nearly $500K he owes

Joseph Power was sentenced Tuesday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court. (Facebook)

A Nova Scotia man who fled for five years to avoid paying some $500,000 in child support was handed a 4½-year sentence Tuesday for contempt of court and must pay his ex-wife what she's owed.

In rendering the sentence, Justice Elizabeth Jollimore of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court said Joseph Patrick Power has not accepted any responsibility and blames his situation on his former spouse.

"I don't need to use adjectives like 'shameful,' 'egregious,' or 'flagrant' to describe Mr. Power's behaviour," Jollimore said in her decision.

"The dullest description of his actions doesn't disguise the depths of his disregard for the court and his children."

Arrested in Montreal last month

Power was wanted on multiple warrants for contempt of court, both for failing to attend court and failing to pay child support payments dating back to 2014.

He was arrested last month in Montreal and returned to Nova Scotia to face sentencing.

Angela Power says she's deeply relieved after her ex-husband was sentenced. (CBC)

His ex-wife, Angela Power, said Tuesday she's deeply relieved by the outcome.

"For the longest time, my biggest dream and goal has been to pay for my children's post-secondary education. And I really hope I'll be able to do that for them soon," she said. 

It's been a long battle to reach this point. She's had to work three jobs to support her children alone, and lost her home while accruing $50,000 in legal fees trying to collect what her ex-husband owed. 

More than $490K plus interest

Her lawyer, Igor Yushchenko, said Joseph Power could be released from custody early if he pays what he owes in full. That amount is a little over $490,000 in child support, plus interest, he said.

Court records show Power, an expert IT security consultant, billed his clients up to $20,000 a month. 

From 2007 to 2013, he failed to pay $171,786 in child support. The court ordered him to pay that amount in full, plus $3,242 monthly moving forward.  

Instead, he ran to Denmark, and then to Montreal, to avoid his obligations. 

His lawyer, Brian Bailey, told a sentencing hearing Monday that Power was broke and has no way of paying what he owes.

Judge questions Power's apology

Power also gave a tearful apology, but Jollimore said important parts were missing. 

"There was no evidence that Joseph Power had ever expressed any regrets until yesterday afternoon — after he had spent a month in jail," she said in her decision.

"Mr. Power's remorse is genuine. But it's not clear that his remorse is for defying the court order."

Jollimore also cast doubt on claims that Power is broke. She said Power moved his financial affairs offshore when facing a child support judgment.

Worse than Vrege Armoyan

Jollimore said the contempt of court case of Halifax businessman Vrege Armoyan was the only "contemporary benchmark" she could apply to this case. 

Armoyan was sentenced to four years in prison for failing to make support payments in his high-profile divorce. 

"Differences between Mr. Power's conduct and Mr. Armoyan's, show Mr. Power's behaviour to be worse," Jollimore said. 

Armoyan was in contempt of court for 11 days, while Power was in contempt for 64 months. 

Armoyan also made payments amounting to a third of what the court ordered, while Power paid less than four per cent.

No fines issued

Angela Power had asked the court for fines and interest that would add more than $400,000 to what Joseph Power already owes. 

Jollimore declined to order those, saying they were "disproportionate" and "wouldn't add to the coercive force of imprisonment."

Yushchenko said the issue of fines and interest could be reopened if Joseph Power chooses to appeal. 

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About the Author

Jack Julian

Reporter

Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

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