In a recent Ontario decision, a husband’s attempt to reduce or terminate his spousal support obligations resulted in the court actually increasing the amount he had to pay the wife each month.

Couple Marries and Separates

The husband and wife were married for 16 years. During the marriage, the husband worked at a local mill, providing for most of the couple’s income. The husband retired at the age of 57 when the mill closed in 2006. He is now 72 years old. 

During the early years of the marriage, the wife was a homemaker, caring for the couple’s two children. She later found some minimum wage part-time work and was eventually hired by a school board in 1994 where she worked for 18 years. Like her husband, she retired at age 57. She is now 66 years of age.

The parties separated in 1991. At separation, each parent cared for one child, who are now grown. 

The husband later remarried, while the wife lived alone. 

Husband Seeks To End or Reduce Spousal Support

In 1993, the court issued an order directing the husband to pay spousal support to the wife, currently in the amount of $500 per month.

In 2021, the husband brought a motion before the court seeking to terminate or reduce his spousal support obligations to the wife. He submitted that the wife had been self-supporting for many years.  He argued that his retirement in 2006 constituted a material change in circumstances. He had previously launched motions to terminate spousal support in 2005 and 2011 but neither motion was adjudicated. He stated that by receiving Canada Pension and Old Age Security, the wife had replaced the spousal support he paid of $500 per month.

In response, the wife disputed that she was self-sufficient. She submitted that there was no evidence that the husband’s pension was included in the equalization calculation of their assets and thus the payment of spousal support did not amount to “double dipping.” She asked that her monthly support be increased to $750 per month.

Court Considers Parties’ Assets

The court began by looking at the parties’ financial circumstances.

It concluded that the wife’s monthly income without the payment of spousal support was $2,575, annualized to $30,900. However, her monthly expenses equalled $3,198, leaving her with a monthly deficit of $623. Thus, even with the addition of spousal support, the wife was left with a monthly deficit of $123. She was also $300 in debt.

In contrast, the court found that the husband’s most recent income was $54,534, derived from his pension, including Old Age Security and Canada Pension, and other investments. It addition, the husband had no debts and, after payment of monthly expenses, excepting spousal support, he showed a surplus of $991. The court noted that this calculation did not take account of his spouse’s income, which came to $19,000 in net income. 

Court Refuses to Reduce Spousal Support Amount

The court accepted that there had been a material change in circumstances for both parties, which included the husband’s retirement, the fact that thechildren were no longer dependent, and the husband’s marriage to a spouse who was able to contribute to household expenses. It then stated:

“Given the ages of the parties, it is probable that their respective incomes will remain as they are now; so long as [the wife] is alone, she is unlikely to achieve economic self-sufficiency in the future. 

In my view, [the husband] has the ability to continue paying spousal support without hardship and [the wife] continues to need it as a result of the economic disadvantage she suffered by assuming the homemaker role during and after marriage. Termination of spousal support in today’s circumstances would impoverish her unnecessarily.”

The court therefore dismissed the husband’s motion to vary spousal support.

Court Increases Spousal Support Amount

Instead, the court granted the wife’s motion to increase spousal support to $750 per month, finding that the husband had the ability to pay increased support and that the increase was warranted based on the wife’s circumstances.

In the result, the court therefore varied the husband’s spousal support obligations by increasing his monthly payment to the wife from $500 to $750. 

Get Advice

At Feigenbaum Law, our goal is to help you move forward following the breakdown of a relationship while retaining as much financial stability as possible and ensuring your children are provided for. Mark Feigenbaum is able to counsel his clients on all potential risks that may result from a family law dispute, not just those related strictly to the breakdown of a marriage. Contact Mark online or call him at (905) 695-1269 or toll-free at (877) 275-4792 to book a consultation.