Spousal support in Ontario
When a married couple separates, determinations of child and spousal support obligations often represent contentious issues that can lead to long-lasting consequences for the parties involved. At Nanda & Associates, our family lawyers are dedicated to representing our clients’ best interests and guiding them throughout the separation process in order to provide them with peace of mind at this difficult and stressful time.
Earlier this year, National Post columnist Christie Blatchford penned an article criticizing Ontario’s family law courts and their method of allocating and managing support obligations. The column focused on the case of Rob R., an Oshawa-based 51-year-old father of two children, who owes upwards of $500,000.00 in spousal and child support payments.
In order to understand where Blatchford’s critique is coming from, it is important to go over the basics of support and what these entail. Spousal support, or alimony, is money paid by one spouse to the other following a divorce or separation. It is almost always paid by the spouse who earns the higher income to the spouse who earns the lower income, regardless of gender. Entitlement, however, is not automatic so long as there is an income discrepancy between spouses. Other factors, such as length of marriage or cohabitation, roles and patterns within the relationship, as well as age and skills/experience in the workforce are also relevant.
According to the Community Legal Education Ontario, spousal support is intended to recognize the receiver’s contributions to the relationship; share the financial costs of caring for children; relieve financial hardships; help a spouse become able to contribute to his or her own support; and correct economic advantages or disadvantages caused by the relationship or breakdown of the relationship. To learn more about spousal support obligations, contact the family lawyers at Nanda & Associates today.
The background of Blatchford’s critique takes us back to year 2012, when Ontario Superior Court Justice Peter Magda ordered Rob to pay $6,886.00 per month in child and spousal support to his former spouse. This amount was based on Magda’s opinion that Rob remained intentionally under-employed and made a conscious choice to earn less than he was capable of earning.
Rob’s current income is approximately $65,000.00 per year, or around $5,400.00 per month before tax. Naturally, he has had significant difficulties in complying with the court-ordered support payments. He has twice filed Motions to Change his monthly support payments, and on both occasions Ontario Superior Court judges acknowledged his dire financial situation on the record. In 2013, Justice Jane Ferguson noted that “the imputed income as it is used to determine support is no longer accurate as it no longer reflects [Rob’s] financial reality.”
However, in order for a court to accept an Applicant’s Motion to Change a final court Order, it must find that there has been a material change in the support payor’s financial circumstances to justify the changes requested. Such a change may include a drastic increase or decrease in the support payor’s income; a judge ruling that the recipient of spousal support should now be self-supporting; or, a change in child custody or support arrangements. Pursuant to this test, Superior Court Justice Clifford Nelson determined that Rob’s circumstances had not changed enough to warrant a reduction in monthly support payments.
Ask any of Ontario’s many family lawyers, and most will agree that the province’s family court system is imperfect. Rob’s situation doesn’t seem equitable, at least as it is presented by Blatchford. However, an experienced lawyer can greatly improve your chances of seeing a positive outcome in court.
If you or someone you know needs help resolving a spousal of child support dispute, contact the family lawyers at Nanda & Associates today. Our experienced team can provide you with the advice, guidance, and representation you need to attain the best possible outcome.