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Types of Spousal Support: Compensatory and Non-Compensatory

Types of Spousal Support: Compensatory and Non-Compensatory

Our previous blog post on spousal support dealt with how spousal support is calculated, specifically the amount of spousal support and the duration of its payment.  I also made mention to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (“SSAG”) and how they influence the calculation of spousal support in Ontario.

In this post, we will be delving deeper into the different types of spousal support and how they are determined when parties separate. It will focus mostly on married spouses and on the legislation that guides how spousal support is determined. Two significant cases helped cement the two types of spousal support:

  1. The leading case on compensatory support: Moge v. Moge, 1992 CanLII 25, [1992] S.C.J. No. 107, 1992 CarswellMan 143; and
  2. The leading case on non-compensatory support: Bracklow v. Bracklow, 1999 CanLII 715, [1999] S.C.J. No. 14, 1999 CarswellBC 532.

 

The Legislation

S. 15.2 of the Divorce Act (“DA”), states the entitlement to spousal support.

S. 15.4 of the DA provides the factors to be considered:

(4) In making an order under subsection (1) or an interim order under subsection (2), the court shall take into consideration the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of each spouse, including

(a) the length of time the spouses cohabited;

(b) the functions performed by each spouse during cohabitation; and

(c) any order, agreement or arrangement relating to support of either spouse.

And s. 15.6 of the DA provides the objectives of a spousal support order:

(6) An order made under subsection (1) or an interim order under subsection (2) that provides for the support of a spouse should

(a) recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the marriage or its breakdown;

(b) apportion between the spouses any financial consequences arising from the care of any child of the marriage over and above any obligation for the support of any child of the marriage;

(c) relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the marriage; and

(d) in so far as practicable, promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time [Emphasis added].

This is all well and good for married couples, but does this apply to common law spouses as well?  See our previous post regarding the difference between common law and married spouses for more information.

 

The Common Law Spouse

The Family Law Act (“FLA”) also has spousal support provisions.  S. 30 of the FLA provides the eligibility for spousal support while s. 33(8) provide the purpose for spousal support, s. 33(9) provides us with the factors to determine support, and finally s. 33(10) provides us with how spousal misconduct is factored in regarding its relevance.

Under the FLA, need is a determinative factor for awarding spousal support.  It also does not require proof of economic loss or disadvantage caused by the cohabitation.

 

The Case Law – Moge v. Moge – Compensatory Spousal Support

Courts recognized that divorce can have economic effects on the parties, especially against the wife.  Looking at the DA, Justice L’Hereux-Dube found that entitlement to spousal support is based on compensation.  The language of the DA as provided above indicates that a court should look at the economic disadvantages and advantages that resulted from the marriage or separation, consider economic disadvantages resulting from caring for children outside of child support, and to alleviate financial hardship resulting from the marriage.

Spouses are obligated to become self-sufficient, but this is only one factor a court will consider. Also, compensatory support is not appropriate in every case.  To determine if spousal support should fall under this category, a court will look at whether a spouse suffered financial disadvantages during the marriage while the other spouse received economic benefits.  Long term compensatory support would be appropriate in these instances where a former spouse would likely continue to suffer those economic disadvantages suffered during the marriage and its dissolution.

 

The Case Law – Bracklow v. Bracklow – Breaking down the three types of spousal support

Here, the court recognized that the DA provides for the three types of spousal support obligations:

  1. Contractual
  2. Compensatory
  3. Non-compensatory

A judge would need to consider all types, and an order may even include all three, if appropriate.  They further recognized that, although compensation and encouraging self-sufficiency were important elements to consider on the breakdown of a marriage, if compensation was not described, and if self-sufficiency is not possible, a support obligation may arise from the marriage relationship itself. As such, need alone may be enough to warrant spousal support. Previous to Bracklow, support had been denied because the applicant did not suffer any economic disadvantage due to the marriage.

Essentially, what this means is that a spouse does not have to prove they suffered an economic disadvantage during the marriage, indicating they should be compensated for that disadvantage.  Just simply showing they need assistance with monthly bill payments, etc., now that the relationship has ended could be enough.

 

No Spousal support until Equalization determined

It is important to note that spousal support has to be calculated after the parties have determined the Equalization payment as failure to do so would be an error[1] (see previous blog post for more details on equalization and how it is calculated).  Basically, if the equalization payment is sufficient to meet the recipient spouse’s needs, no spousal support should be awarded[2].

 

Summary

From this case law and the legislation, we can describe the types of spousal support as follows:

  1. Contractual
    1. What parties agree to in a contract, i.e. a separation agreement (see our previous blog post for more details on separation agreements).
  2.  Compensatory
    1. Based on an economic loss suffered by one spouse due to the roles each spouse played during the marriage so that the other spouse could receive an economic benefit;
    2. Common elements that could result in this type of spousal support include: staying at home with children on full- or part-time basis, being a secondary earner in the home, having primary care of children AFTER separation, moving for the other spouse’s career, supporting the payor’s education or training, or even working primarily in a family business.
  3. Non-Compensatory
    1. Mostly means an inability for a spouse to meet their basic needs (monthly bills, etc.), but it can also mean that a former spouse will need to be supported now that there is a decline in their standard of living from the marital standard;
    2. Common elements here that could result in this type of support are: length of the relationship, drop in standard of living after separation, and the economic hardship experienced by the former spouse

This blog is intended for legal information purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

[1] Greenglass v. Greenglass, 2010 ONCA 675, [2010] O.J. No. 4409, 2010 CarswellOnt 7761, var’g 2009 CanLII 39995 (S.C.J.).

[2] Linton v. Linton, 1990 CanLII 2597, [1990] O.J. No. 2267, 1990 CarswellOnt 316 (C.A.).

Exclusive Possession of the Matrimonial Home

One of the more difficult choices to make when separating is deciding who will get to live in the matrimonial home, or what is otherwise known as exclusive possession.  Both parties have likely developed an attachment to the home, and uprooting your life to move somewhere else can be a daunting and stressful experience.

So what exactly is exclusive possession? Does this mean a spouse now has ownership, legally known as title, of the home?

No.

This is a common misconception regarding what exclusive possession actually is.  Exclusive possession is the right of a spouse to possession of the home.  In other words, the ability of a spouse to live in the home, while the other spouse has to live somewhere else.  This right of possession is as against the spouse and not the home itself.  This WILL NOT give you title or ownership of the home by itself.

It is important to note that Married spouses have a stronger claim than Common law spouses regarding exclusive possession of the home as a result of the provisions in the Family Law Act (“FLA”).  The relevant provisions are replicated below:

 

19.(1) Both spouses have an equal right to possession of a matrimonial home.

(2)  When only one of the spouses has an interest in a matrimonial home, the other spouse’s right of possession,

(a) is personal as against the first spouse; and

(b) ends when they cease to be spouses, unless a separation agreement or court order provides otherwise.

 

24.(1) Regardless of the ownership of a matrimonial home and its contents, and despite section 19 (spouse’s right of possession), the court may on application, by order,

(b) direct that one spouse be given exclusive possession of the matrimonial home or part of it for the period that the court directs and release other property that is a matrimonial home from the application of this Part;

(2)  The court may, on motion, make a temporary or interim order under clause (1)(a), (b).

 

The court will of course have some considerations they will need to weigh when making the order for exclusive possession as per s. 24(1)(3) of the FLA:

(3)  In determining whether to make an order for exclusive possession, the court shall consider,

(a) the best interests of the children affected;

(b) any existing orders under Part I (Family Property) and any existing support orders;

(c) the financial position of both spouses;

(d) any written agreement between the parties;

(e) the availability of other suitable and affordable accommodation; and

(f) any violence committed by a spouse against the other spouse or the children.

 

(4) In determining the best interests of a child, the court shall consider,

(a) the possible disruptive effects on the child of a move to other accommodation; and

(b) the child’s views and preferences, if they can be reasonably ascertained.

 

What kind of spouses are entitled to exclusive possession?

The FLA is clear that if a person is looking for an Order in Family Court for exclusive possession, they must fall within the meaning of spouse in s. 1(1) of the Family Law Act.  Basically, you need to be married. See our post on Common Law vs. Marriage for more details.

This also means that you have to currently be a spouse of the other party to claim this remedy.  Divorced parties are not entitled to this remedy as they are no longer a spouse, but a former spouse.  So if you are separated, you can claim this remedy, but if you have a divorce certificate and you are legally divorced, you cannot claim this remedy. See our blog regarding Separation and Divorce for more info.

Common Law Spouses are similarly limited in their ability to utilize this remedy as they do not fall under the meaning of spouse in s. 1(1) of the FLA as described above.  However, this does not mean common law spouses cannot claim exclusive possession at all.  Common law spouses may be able to rely on the following:

  1. The common law spouse may have a trust claim towards the property that could result in an injunction, effectively allowing the spouse to remain in the home until the issue is resolved.[1]
  2. Under s. 34(1)(d) of the FLA, possession of the home could act as a form of support payment.
  3. Under a restraining order under s. 46(1) of the FLA or s. 35(1) of the Children’s law Reform Act. In which case, the possession of the home would be an effect of the Order, rather that the purpose of the Order.[2]

 

Proving the need for exclusive possession

Under these provisions, the person claiming exclusive possession needs to show that the evidence weighs heavily in their favour for the granting of the Order.[3] In Chrobok v. Chrobok, 2006 CanLII 27308, [2006] O.J. No. 3243 (S.C.J.), the wife claimed that she needed to remain in the home as it would be too traumatic for her children to move, and they were undergoing counselling at the time.  Ultimately, the wife failed to prove her argument for exclusive possession as she did not provide any supporting evidence from her children’s counsellor to support her position.

 

Occupation Rent

As a warning, if you are actually granted exclusive possession, you may then have to pay rent towards your former spouse who had to move out of the home!  Check back for future blog posts where I will discuss how this legal remedy works.

Information provided is for legal information purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

[1] Perks v. Lazaris, 2016 ONSC 1356

[2] Perks v. Lazaris, 2016 ONSC 1356, para 27.

[3] Berdun v. Berdun, 2008 CanLII 23945, [2008] O.J. No. 2016 (S.C.J.); McEachern v. McEachern, [1994] O.J. No. 1544 (Gen.Div .); Tweed v. Tweed, [1990] O.J. No. 1440 (H.C.).

Unequal Division of Net Family Property

Unequal Division of Net Family Property

When married spouses separate, s.5(1) of the Family Law Act (“FLA”) provides that there will be an equalization payment made from the spouse with the greater net family property to the spouse with the lesser net family property (see our blog post here for an introduction to how net family property and equalization work).

To briefly recap, the value of this equalization payment under s. 5(1) of the FLA is described as “one-half [the] difference between [the spouses]”.  Meaning the spouse with the greater net family property pays 50% of the difference to the spouse with the lesser net family property.

However, this equalization payment can be varied should the court find that the payment would be unconscionableS. 5(6) of the FLA provides us with the following criteria that could result in a varied equalization payment amount:

 

Variation of share

(6) The court may award a spouse an amount that is more or less than half the difference between the net family properties if the court is of the opinion that equalizing the net family properties would be unconscionable (emphasis ours), having regard to,

(a) a spouse’s failure to disclose to the other spouse debts or other liabilities existing at the date of the marriage;

(b) the fact that debts or other liabilities claimed in reduction of a spouse’s net family property were incurred recklessly or in bad faith;

(c) the part of a spouse’s net family property that consists of gifts made by the other spouse;

(d) a spouse’s intentional or reckless depletion of his or her net family property;

(e) the fact that the amount a spouse would otherwise receive under subsection (1), (2) or (3) is disproportionately large in relation to a period of cohabitation that is less than five years;

(f) the fact that one spouse has incurred a disproportionately larger amount of debts or other liabilities than the other spouse for the support of the family;

(g) a written agreement between the spouses that is not a domestic contract; or

(h) any other circumstance relating to the acquisition, disposition, preservation, maintenance or improvement of property.  R.S.O. 1990, c. F.3, s. 5 (6).

 

The purpose for why this is allowed is described in s. 5(7) of the FLA:

Purpose

(7) The purpose of this section is to recognize that child care, household management and financial provision are the joint responsibilities of the spouses and that inherent in the marital relationship there is equal contribution, whether financial or otherwise, by the spouses to the assumption of these responsibilities, entitling each spouse to the equalization of the net family properties, subject only to the equitable considerations set out in subsection (6).  R.S.O. 1990, c. F.3, s. 5 (7).

What we can see in the language in s. 5(7) is that an unequal equalization payment is not something to be granted easily.  This will really only apply rarely and then only after carefully assessing the specific circumstances of each party to see if an unequal equalization payment would be appropriate.

Unconscionable

So what does unconscionable actually mean here? The court in Serra v Serra evaluated this term and provides us with the following guidance:

[T]he threshold of “unconscionability” under s. 5(6) is exceptionally high (emphasis ours). The jurisprudence is clear that circumstances which are “unfair”, “harsh” or “unjust” alone do not meet the test. To cross the threshold, an equal division of net family properties in the circumstances must “shock the conscience of the court[1] (emphasis ours).

Further caselaw helps to clarify the point by stating the following:

  1. “It is the financial result, the result of the usual NFP equalization, that must be unconscionable, after taking into account only the eight enumerated considerations, nothing else”[2]
  2. “The term “shocking” indicates a situation or circumstances such as to shock the conscience where the party seeking relief has been put in a position so unfair as to cry out for redress. Accordingly, the word “unconscionable” must mean more than a mere consideration of “fairness” or “reasonableness”[3]
  3. “The conduct must relate to the accumulation of the net family property in some way. Even if the evidence established that the husband sexually assaulted the wife on the day before they separated, as alleged, the court could not impose a financial punishment on him by varying his share of the net family property, as that conduct was not related in any way to the property that the parties had on the date of separation”[4]

This helps us to understand the extreme level the financial circumstances of a spouse must reach before the unequal equalization payment will be considered by courts.  As stated in the third bullet point above, if the conduct of a spouse does not affect the financial situation of a spouse, that alone cannot affect a variation of an equalization payment.

If you are going through a separation right now, or are looking for information regarding separation, contact the professionals at Rabideau Law to see how we may be able to assist you.

This information was provided for information purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

 

 

[1] Serra v. Serra, 2009 ONCA 105, 61 R.F.L.(6th) 1, var’g. 2007 CanLII 2809, 36 R.F.L.(6th) 66 (S.C.J.), Blair J.A. stated (at para. 47):

[2] Cosentino v. Cosentino, 2015 ONSC 271 (at para. 46)

[3] Heal v. Heal, 1998 CanLII 14896, 43 R.F.L.(4th) 88 (Ont.Gen.Div.).

[4] N.R.I.H. v. M.G.S.H. sub nom. Hamdy v. Hamdy, 2015 ONSC 3277 (at para. 291).

Child Support - Undue Hardship

Child Support: Undue Hardship

As discussed in the previous blog on child support, child support is generally seen as a non-negotiable support payment in the eyes of the court.  However, there are ways to alter child support payments.  This can be done through either a shared custody arrangement (see our blog post here), or by proving undue hardship.

S. 10(1) of the Federal Child Support Guidelines (the “FCSG”) provides an outline for how to approach an argument for undue hardship and also provides that either spouse may apply for it.  Just remember that whoever makes the claim has the onus of proving the claim (see caselaw Nishnik v. Smith (1998) 162 Sask.R. 200 (Q.B.)).

S. 10(2) of the FCSG provides the circumstances that courts will recognize as causing undue hardship:

(a) the spouse has responsibility for an unusually high level of debts reasonably incurred to support the spouses and their children prior to the separation or to earn a living;

(b) the spouse has unusually high expenses in relation to exercising access to a child;

(c) the spouse has a legal duty under a judgment, order or written separation agreement to support any person;

(d) the spouse has a legal duty to support a child, other than a child of the marriage, who is

(i) under the age of majority, or

(ii) the age of majority or over but is unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to obtain the necessaries of life; and

(e) the spouse has a legal duty to support any person who is unable to obtain the necessaries of life due to an illness or disability.

As can be seen, the language here demonstrates that there must be a SIGNIFICANT type of burden placed on the spouse advancing the argument for undue hardship.  Even if the court agrees that there is undue hardship, they must still factor that with s. 10(3) of the FCSG which provides that the application must be denied if the court is of the opinion that the household of the spouse claiming the undue hardship is of a higher standard of living than the household of the other spouse.  It is not just hardship that must be proved, but UNDUE hardship (see Wislesky v. Wislesky (1999), 47 R.F.L.(4th) 208 (Ont.Ct.Gen.Div.)).

This means that all persons who reside with the spouse would likely have to be involved in the investigation as to whether there is an undue hardship; meaning their financial information would likely have to be produced.

See below for examples from caselaw regarding undue hardship:

Undue Hardship established:

Trebilcock v. Trebilcock, 2012 ONCA 452

  • Father appealed an order for lump sum child support of $150,000 – this support was based on his income of $75,000 which the Father contested
  • Mother made a claim for undue hardship and was successful
    • Mother was disabled, raising the children, children were reaching post-secondary education age, and she was on social assistance
    • Mother also received no support from the father since 2001
    • Father had received a large inheritance and dissipated a portion of his assets

Schaan v. Schaan, [2000] B.C.J. No. 61 (S.C.),

  • split custody between the parents
  • mother made claim for undue hardship
    • she was unemployed, blind, and her expenses exceeded her income
    • additionally, it was expected that her rent would increase in the near future

Scharf v. Scharf (1998), 40 R.F.L.(4th) 422 (Ont.Gen.Div.),

  • father applied for variation of child support
  • each party had one child in their care
  • the Child Support Guidelines (“CSG”) indicated that the mother should receive $60 instead of the $200 she was receiving
  • mother claimed undue hardship for daughter who was living with her
  • father didn’t see daughter often, mother had to take unpaid time from work due to daughter’s health problems
  • court found that mother would suffer undue hardship if only paid the guideline amount as the standard of living in her household was lower than that of the father’s

 

Undue Hardship NOT established

Ignacy v. Ignacy, 2005 CanLII 44413, [2005] O.J. No. 5264 (S.C.J.)

  • mother had custody of both daughters
  • sought child support higher than CSG provided due to undue hardship or in alternative an order for spousal support
  • Her gross income was $66,640 and father’s was $127,286
  • Court rejected her claim arguing that CSG amounts were not to be lightly interfered with
  • No allegation that children were not properly clothed or fed, no physical or emotional problems requiring extra time and expense to mother
  • Disparity in household income existed, but it was not significant
  • Mother did receive spousal support

Block v. Baltimore (2000), 5 R.F.L.(5th) 18 (Man.Q.B.)

  • father applied to have child support varied on basis that bother children were no longer dependent
  • mother argued she would suffer undue hardship if order was varied
  • claimed she would have to sell home, her costs were increased due to father’s failure to exercise access and that children would suffer
  • court ruled that although there was hardship, it was not UNDUE hardship
  • ultimately the court reasoned that they would be awarding her spousal support instead of child support

Suain v. Suain (2002), 29 R.F.L.(5th) 234 (B.C.S.C)

  • Father sought a reduction in child support since he had just started on long-term disability benefits
  • Mother had no employment income
  • court ruled that since the CSG does not take into account the recipients income, that fact alone was not enough to create undue hardship
  • court found there were no circumstances that made the Mother’s situation exceptional in this case

 

Caselaw

  1. Nishnik v. Smith (1998) 162 Sask.R. 200 (Q.B.).
  2. Wislesky v. Wislesky (1999), 47 R.F.L.(4th) 208 (Ont.Ct.Gen.Div.)
  3. Trebilcock v. Trebilcock, 2012 ONCA 452
  4. Schaan v. Schaan, [2000] B.C.J. No. 61 (S.C.),
  5. Scharf v. Scharf (1998), 40 R.F.L.(4th) 422 (Ont.Gen.Div.),
  6. Ignacy v. Ignacy, 2005 CanLII 44413, [2005] O.J. No. 5264 (S.C.J.)
  7. Block v. Baltimore (2000), 5 R.F.L.(5th) 18 (Man.Q.B.)
  8. Suain v. Suain (2002), 29 R.F.L.(5th) 234 (B.C.S.C)

This post is provided for the purposes of legal information only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Past Conduct of Parents in Determining Custody and Access

Can the Past Conduct of a Parent be Used to Determine Custody and Access?

I have had clients in the past come to me with this question wondering if they could use the behaviour of their former spouse as evidence that custody or access should be limited as a result of their actions. While this could be true, generally it will only matter where those actions have an effect on their ability to parent the child.

Let’s look a little closer at what this actually means.

First, we need to have a refresher on the “Best Interests of the Child” under s. 24(2) of the Children’s Law Reform Act (“CLRA”). From here, we can now look at how past conduct of a spouse may be factored into that list under s. 24(2).

24(3) of the CLRA shows us that past conduct can be considered but ONLY in relation to custody or access and ONLY THEN in accordance with s. 24(4) of the CLRA. The language in these sections identifies that the conduct will be considered only if the conduct is relevant to the person’s ability to act as a parent (s. 24(3)(b)), and also if there was violence or abuse against the spouse, parent of the child, member or persons’ household, or any child (s. 24(4)).

Keep in mind that anything done in self-defence or to protect another person does not fall under this category of violence or abuse mentioned above (see. S 24(5)).

The Divorce Act (“DA”) also makes mention of these issues under s. 16(9), where again they show that the past conduct is not relevant unless it affects the persons’ ability to act as a parent.

Let’s take adultery as an example.  Somerville v. Somerville is one such case where the extra-marital affair of the husband resulted in the end of the marriage.  What the court found was that the affair only spoke to the husband’s ability as a spouse, NOT his ability to act as a parent to his child.  Therefore it was not a relevant consideration when determining custody or access.


Relevant Parental Conduct

When determining custody or access, courts start with relevant parental conduct to determine who the custodial parent would be and who would be entitled to access.  These initial relevant considerations could include, but is not limited to:

  1. Who has been making the decisions for the child?
  2. How often does the child see each parent currently?
  3. Who prepares the food and clothing for the child?
  4. Who arranges after school activities etc?

Adjusting Terms of Access

After the initial assessment, courts will then see if the conduct of the parents should be considered to see how the terms of access might change such as: frequency, duration, supervision, overnight access, or even if access should be denied.

To support this analysis under s. 24 of the CLRA, Justice Dunn in T.(R.R.) v. T.(G.) considered the use of additional factors:

  1. the non-custodial parent’s acceptance of the custodial parent’s responsibility for the child’s discipline and conduct;
  2. the non-custodial parent’s punctuality, attendance and behaviour on access visits;
  3. the non-custodial parent’s attempts to keep informed of the child’s current events, health and achievements;
  4. the non-custodial parent’s attempts to help the child adjust to returning to the custodial parent; and
  5. the non-custodial parent’s sensitivity to time limitations on the visit.

Sample Case T.(R.R.) v. T.(G.)

In T.(R.R.) v. T.(G.),  the father was denied access because he:

  1. Repeatedly showed up for visits drunk;
  2. Left multiple threatening messages on the mother’s answering machine;
  3. Acted inappropriately during his access visits;
  4. The children didn’t want to visit with the father; and
  5. The children were in a better emotional state when they did not see the father.

Here we can clearly see that the conduct of the father was directly affecting his ability to parent the children.

As a final note, I would like to point out that no parent has an inherent right to access to the child simply because they are the biological parent, nor do they have any proprietary rights or even domain over their child.  See Montgomery v. Montgomery, where the court was clear in showing that no biological link should be permitted to surpass the best interests of the child.

 

Case Citations:

  1. Somerville v. Somerville, 2007 ONCA 210, [2007] O.J. No. 1079, 2007 CarswellOnt 1697, 36 R.F.L.(6th) 7
  2. (R.R.) v. T.(G.), [1994] O.J. No. 2453
  3. Montgomery v. Montgomery, [1992] O.J. No. 2299, 42 R.F.L.(3d) 349 (C.A.) (at 360 [R.F.L]

 

Legal Disclaimer that this is information only and not to be construed as legal advice.

The Divorce Process

Should you determine that your relationship is over and that you wish to get divorced, you will need to follow the process outlined below in order to officially terminate your marriage.  If you are unsure about the nature of your relationship, take a look at our previous blog posts regarding Common law vs. Marriage and Separation and Divorce for a background regarding what is required in order to be eligible to get divorced.

Generally, the reason a divorce is granted is because two married persons have been separated for a year. However, you do not need to actually wait for a year of being separate before you can begin the divorce process. You will just have to wait until the year is up before a judge can grant you a Divorce Order. Be aware that if you reconcile the relationship for more than 90 days you will have to start the year separation period over again- (see separation and divorce article for more information). If you are getting divorced as a result of adultery or physical or mental abuse, then you do not need to wait for a year for the Divorce Order to be granted.  However, you will need to provide documentation or other evidence to support your claim for adultery, physical or mental abuse as a reason for breakdown of marriage.

Both spouses do not need to agree to the divorce, either spouse can apply for it. However, if one spouse brings the application for divorce, the other spouse has the ability to contest it, see s. 8(1) of the Divorce Act (“DA”) and Rules 8 and 10 of the Family Law Rules .

One final thing to be mindful of is that judges will not grant a divorce if they believe that no reasonable arrangements have been made to support the children of the marriage, see s. 11(1)(b) of the DA.

Can I get Divorced if I’m not a Canadian Citizen?

Yes. Canadian citizenship is not a requirement for divorce in Canada. However, it is required that you or your spouse have been living in a Canadian Province for at least 1 year preceding the divorce, see s. 3(1) of the DA.

Things to Consider when Getting Divorced

Before getting divorced, it’s important to think about the following family matters:

  1. Custody and Access for children;
  2. Child and Spousal support;
  3. Property Division including things such as:
    1. Who gets the matrimonial home?
    2. How to split pensions;
    3. What happens to bank accounts?
    4. Who pays off any existing debts?

These issues can be dealt with in a separation agreement instead of through court which can save a lot of time and money. Judges will take separation agreements seriously and are unlikely to overturn items in the agreement unless there are deficiencies with the agreement or information was not disclosed (see our previous post on separation agreements for more information). Judges also have the ability to make decisions on the above noted matters before a divorce is finalized through Endorsements and Orders. It is best to speak to a lawyer regarding your rights and obligations to ensure that you are properly protected during the divorce process.

3 Different ways to Approach a Divorce

Depending on your particular circumstances, you have three options available to you should you wish to proceed with a divorce:

  1. General Application;
    1. This approach is taken when the parties cannot agree on how family matters should be resolved;
  2. Simple Application;
    1. You make this application where the ONLY THING you are claiming is a divorce;
  3. Joint Application;
    1. You can take this approach when both you and your ex spouse consent to a divorce and bring the application together;
    2. You can also bring a joint application where you both agree on all family matters.

What will I need to begin the Divorce Process?

This will depend on what type of application you bring. Different applications require different forms depending on your particular circumstances and what issues are contested between you and your ex spouse.  It is highly advised that you speak with a lawyer to determine which forms you will need to ensure you are properly protected. See this link for a list of Family court documents that you can review – http://ontariocourtforms.on.ca/en/family-law-rules-forms/.

One document that you will have to have is you marriage certificate. If your marriage certificate is in another language you will have to get it translated. If your spouse is deceased you will need proof of death.

Documents you generally need for a Divorce include:

  1. Form 8 Application;
  2. Form 6B Affidavit of Service;
  3. Form 36A Affidavit of Divorce;
  4. Form 25A Divorce Order.

If there are outstanding family matters that need to be deal with, you might also need the following:

  1. Form 13 or 13.1 Financial Statements if support or property are contested;
  2. Support Deduction Order;
  3. Form 35.1 Child Custody and Access.

 Is there a time limit for me to apply for a Divorce?

There are no time limits (what are called limitation periods) to apply for a divorce. Nor are there limitation periods to apply for child or spousal support. However, spousal support is based heavily on need; if you do not apply for spousal support for several years a judge may be inclined to see that you do not need support and may not grant it. Child support is the right of the child and courts will uphold this very strictly.  See our posts on spousal support and child support for more info.

Also, there is no limitation period on custody and access applications. You must be mindful of something called the status quo however. Judges do not want to disrupt a child’s stable home environment and are less likely to change it if their current situation has been in place for some time.

There are limitation periods for an equalization payment (see previous post for more information). These limits under s. 7(3) of the Family Law Act are as follows:

An application regarding an equalization payment cannot be brought after:

  1. 2 years after day of Divorce of annulment;
  2. 6 years after separation and there is not prospect they will resume cohabiting;
  3. 6 months after death of a spouse.

Do I need a Lawyer in order to get Divorced?

No. You can bring the application yourself, or jointly with your spouse without the aid of a lawyer. However, it is always best to seek the counsel of a lawyer specializing in family law to ensure all your rights are protected, ESPECIALLY when there are a lot of issues between you and your ex spouse that you do not agree on. Lawyers have the expertise with the law and court procedure to ensure that the divorce can move ahead as smoothly as possible.

Even if it is a simply divorce, having a lawyer support your through the process can greatly reduce stress and complications.

When does the Divorce actually take effect?

31 days after the date on which judgment granting the divorce is rendered, see s. 12(1) of the DA. Generally, this means you have to:

  1. Start the application by filing and issuing appropriate documents for divorce;
  2. Serve other party and wait to see if they respond (minimum of 30 days after serving your ex spouse);
  3. File the affidavit for Divorce and Divorce Order for the Judgment if no response from your ex spouse;
  4. Wait for Judge to provide the Judgment granting Divorce and to sign the Order;
  5. Wait 31 days after the date of the signed Order.

This process usually takes a few months but can be much longer depending on how litigious both parties are. If you are granted the Divorce, s. 13 of the DA states that it is effective across all of Canada.

Furthermore, s. 12(7) of the DA states that the court must provide you with a Divorce certificate if you request it that can be effective as of a specified date.

Can I change the Divorce Order?

Once that 31 day period after the Order is signed by the Judge passes the Divorce is final. However, this does not mean that you cannot revisit certain items such as custody, access, or support.  These items can always be changed should both parties consent to any changes or the court deems it just. This is because income can change, spouses may want to move or any other material change that may require a change to the arrangements in place at the time of divorce.

Contact our knowledgeable staff here at Rabideau Law to see how we can assist with any divorce or family law issues you may have.

Disclaimer: The above is for informational purposes only and does not serve as legal advice. Please speak to your lawyer to better assess your specific situation.

Separation and the Matrimonial Home

Separation and the Matrimonial Home

On separation, parties often have to make hard decisions regarding how they will split assets, who will pay support, and how they will move on from the relationship.  At this time, one of the most contentious and difficult items to deal with is the Matrimonial Home.  Who gets to keep it? Will the kids remain there? Do we have to sell it? How much equity do we each get?

The matrimonial home is such a significant asset of the marriage that there is a whole section of the Family Law Act (FLA) devoted just to it (see part 2 of the Family Law Act) 

Keep in mind that these provisions only apply to Married spouses (see CL vs. Married spouse post).  Common law couples only have property rights as far as their title interest goes.  If you are common law, and you are not on title to the property, you will have to consider other equitable remedies such as a constructive trust or resulting trust claim through litigation if you want a part of the home.

First, it’s a good idea to understand what the matrimonial home is.  S.18(1) of the FLA defines a matrimonial home as:

Every property in which a person has an interest and that is or, if the spouses have separated, was at the time of separation ordinarily occupied by the person and his or her spouse as their family residence is their matrimonial home.

What’s interesting here is that more than one home can qualify as a matrimonial home.  This means that if you own a cottage that the family uses regularly at the time of separation, this could be considered a matrimonial home as well.

So what if you moved into a home different from the one you lived in when you got married? Remember that this rule applies to properties that at the time of separation were ordinarily occupied by the person and their spouse.  Any other property you owned during the marriage that you no longer live in ordinarily is treated differently.

What if you have property outside of Ontario? Do we apply the same “matrimonial rules”? Unfortunately no.  This rule only applies to homes in Ontario as s. 28(1) of the FLA indicates.

 

What rights do I have to the Matrimonial Home?

Under the FLA s. 19(1) – both spouses have an equal right to possession of the matrimonial home, regardless of who is on title to the home (the owner).  This is a right not against the home itself, but against the other spouse.  This doesn’t mean that you have a right to take title to the home, but that you can enforce a right to live in the home through courts via an order for exclusive possession.

This remedy is provided under s. 24(1) of the FLA This is an extreme measure.  This is an order from the court saying one spouse has to leave their own home; a place where people build their lives and find security, which is a significant reason why the matrimonial home has its own section under the FLA.

  1. 24(3) of the FLA provides criteria the courts will consider when granting an order for exclusive possession:
  2. the best interest of the children affected;
  3. Any existing orders under Part 1 (family property) and any existing support orders;
  4. The financial position of both spouses;
  5. Any written agreement between the parties;
  6. The availability of other suitable and affordable accommodation; and
  7. Any violence committed by a spouse against the other spouse or the children.

You also have a say in how the matrimonial home is to be disposed of or encumbered under s. 21(1) of the FLA.  Even if you are not on title, your ex spouse cannot sell the home, transfer it, or refinance it without your consent.

You are also entitled to the value of the home and how that is distributed.  See our post on equalization to understand how the home and other assets are distributed on separation.

Net Family Property and Equalization: An Introduction

Equalization is a payment from one spouse to the other at the end of a marriage.  This equalization payment ONLY applies to married spouses, not to common law spouses.  S. 5(1) of the Family Law Act (“FLA“) provides for Equalization when:

  1. A divorce is granted;
  2. Marriage is declared a nullity;
  3. When (married) spouses are separated and there is no reasonable prospect they will resume cohabitation.

One thing I often hear clients ask is whether they have to split 50% of everything.  While somewhat true, it is not entirely accurate.  The real definition of division according to s. 5(1) of the FLA is as follows: “the spouse whose net family property is the lesser of the two net family properties is entitled to a one-half difference between them”.

In simpler terms, separated spouses are entitled to 50% of the value of the marriage.  So how is that value determined?

 

Marriage and Valuation Date

First we need to understand what Net Family Property (“NFP”) is and how to calculate it.  S. 4(1) of the Family Law Act defines NFP as all property that a spouse owns on the valuation date (i.e. separation date) after deducting:

  1. Debts and other liabilities; and
  2. Value of property OTHER THAN A MATRIMONIAL HOME owned on date of marriage.

Therefore we have two dates that are important in determining equalization:

  1. The valuation date; and
  2. The date of marriage.

The date of marriage is simply the date you got married and does not include any cohabitation before marriage.  Spousal support may factor in cohabitation periods before marriage however.  See our post on spousal support for more info by clicking here.

The Valuation date is essentially the date the marriage ended, or the date the parties separated.  It is defined under s. 4(1) of the FLA as:

  1. The date you separate;
  2. Date the divorce is granted;
  3. Date marriage is a nullity;
  4. Date one of the spouses commences an application based on improvident depletion that is subsequently granted; or
  5. Date before the date on which one of the spouses dies leaving the other spouse surviving.

Once we have those two dates, we can begin figuring out how much your Net Family Property (“NFP”) is.

 

Calculating Net Family Property for Equalization

When determining the Net Family Property (“NFP”) of persons who are ending their marriage, we need to look at two important dates: the marriage date and the valuation date.

Let’s pick two dates to help figure out the NFP:

  1. Jane and John married on October 1, 2010;
  2. Separated on February 1, 2018.

That’s almost 8 years of marriage.  You’ll see here that February 1, 2018 is the date of separation, which fits under the definition of Valuation date in s. 4(1) of the FLA.

Now, we take the value of all assets that both parties own on the valuation date, subtract their debts owned at valuation, and finally subtract the value of any property owned on the marriage date.

JOHN

John’s Assets on Valuation Date Car – $25,000

Personal Bank Account – $3,000

$4,000 in Joint account with Jane (50%) – $2,000

Investment Account ending in 1010 – $170,000

 Total = $200,000

John’s Debts on Valuation Date Loan from Friend – $50,000

Total = $50,000

Property Owned at Marriage Investment Account ending in 1010 – $100,000

Total = $100,000

Calculate Final Total

Assets

– Debts

– Property at marriage

 

$200,000

-$50,000

-$100,000

John’s NFP $50,000 

JANE

Jane’s Assets on Valuation Date Car – $20,000

Personal Bank Account – $2,000

$4,000 in Joint account with John (50%) – $2,000

RRSP – $6,000

Matrimonial Home – $320,000

Total = $350,000

Jane’s Debts on Valuation Date Line of Credit – $50,000

Mortgage – $100,000

Total = $150,000

Property Owned at Marriage Matrimonial Home – $220,000

Total = $220,000

Calculate final total:

Assets

– Debts

– Property at marriage

 

$350,000

-$150,000

can’t subtract Mat Home

Jane’s NFP $200,000 

So, something interesting happened here.  Jane’s name is the only one on title to the home and it was valued at $220,000 when they got married.  She should be able to deduct that home from the valuation date value right?

Wrong.

Remember, you subtract property owned at the date of marriage from your valuation date EXCEPT for the matrimonial home.  So Jane has to include the entire value of the home regardless of how much it was worth at marriage.

We’re almost there.  The language of the equalization rule is: “the spouse whose net family property is the lesser of the two net family properties is entitled to a one-half difference between them.”

 

EQUALIZATION

Jane’s NFP

– John’s NFP

$200,000

-$50,000

$150,000
Difference divided by 2 $150,000/2
Equalization Payment or, the one half difference $75,000

In this instance John, who is the lesser of the two net family properties, is entitled to the one half difference between them, $75,000.

Therefore Jane makes an equalization payment of $75,000 to John.  With that, John would have $125,000 and Jane would have $125,000.  They are equalized.

 

Additional Exclusions

You also have the ability to exclude other property on the valuation date other than just debts under S. 4(2) of the Family Law Act.

These include things such as:

  • Property acquired by gift or inheritance after marriage date
  • Income from property that was gifted or inherited if donor EXPRESSLY stated it is to be excluded from NFP
  • Damages from a settlement resulting from personal injuries, nervous shock, mental distress, or loss of guidance care and companionship
  • Proceeds or right to proceeds of life insurance policy payable on death of insured
  • Property OTHER THAN MATRIMONIAL HOME into which property above can be traced
  • Property both spouses agree not to include as a result of a domestic contract (see our post on separation agreements for more info)
  • Unadjusted pensionable earnings under Canada Pension Plan

If you’re thinking of separating and want help to ensure you are properly protected, contact Rabideau Law to see how we may assist.

Child Support

Child Support

One of the major issues at separation is how much child or spousal support will be paid from one spouse to the other.  This can often become very contentious between separating spouses as it can greatly impact both of their finances.

The Family Law Act (“FLA”) recognizes that each parent has an obligation to provide support for the children in accordance with the Child Support Guidelines, and that spousal support should recognize each spouse’s contribution to the relationship (see ss. 33(7) and (8) of the FLA).  This is to ensure that there are fair provisions to assist a spouse to contribute to their own support after the relationship ends.

Both types of support can be paid to married AND Common Law partners.  See our previous blog post regarding the differences between Married and Common law partners to learn more here.

This post will focus on child support.  See our next family law post for information on how spousal support is determined.

 

Child Support

Courts generally consider child support non-negotiable.  This is a right of the child and can be enforced strictly to ensure that children are properly taken care of.  This child support is meant to cover things like food, clothes and other essentials for the child’s well-being.  Additionally, parents can be required to split extraordinary expenses or s. 7 expenses.  These can be payments for things like after school programs or health related expenses.

Child support is determined by:

  1. The number of children;
  2. The province or territory where the paying parent lives; and,
  3. The paying parent’s before tax annual income.

These factors help us determine the “table” amount of child support to be paid.  A very rudimentary and approximate formula used to determine this support amount is to pay 10.8% of your monthly Gross income for one child (“the initial amount”).  If you have multiple children, you multiply the initial amount by the following approximate amounts:

  • 1.6 for 2 children
  • 2.1 for 3 children
  • 2.5 for 4 children

Of course this only gives you a ballpark figure and is not completely accurate as the factors in the formula are slightly adjusted as income changes.

For a more accurate answer, follow this link and plug in your details to determine what child support could be paid from one spouse to the other.

As of the date of this post, and according to the calculator provided in the link above, a parent living in Ontario with an annual income of $60,000 and 2 children would pay $915.00 per month in child support.

This takes into account the fact that both children reside in the same home.  If a parent has multiple children with multiple partners who all live in different households, you restart the calculation for each household.  As an example, using the above facts again, a father paying support to two different mothers would pay $556 per month to each mother, rather than $915 split between them both.

Considering that child support is the right of the child and necessary to ensure they are supported throughout their development, it is understandable why courts are so strict in enforcing the table amounts of support.  However, child support can change depending on certain factors.  Generally, child support is paid to the parent who has the child the most.  Yet should this residency arrangement be that one parent has the child 40% of the time and the other parent has the child 60% of the time, then child support payments can be reduced.

Another reason why child support could be reduced is as a result of the paying parent suffering an undue hardship.

 

Undue Hardship

S. 10 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines provides a means for parents to apply to change the set amount of child support if the parent or a child in respect of whom the request is made would suffer undue hardship.

Circumstances that could cause a spouse or child to suffer undue hardship can include:

  1. responsibility for an unusually high level of debt incurred to support spouses and children prior to separation or to earn a living
  2. unusually high expenses in relation to exercising access to a child
  3. a legal duty under a judgment, order or written separation agreement to support any person
  4. a legal duty to support a child, other than a child of the marriage
  5. a legal duty to support any person who is unable to obtain the necessaries of life due to an illness or disability

 

Is there a deadline for Apply for Child Support?

There is no limitation period for applying for child support that has been ordered by a court or that was to be paid as a result of a written agreement.  The problem arises when parents attempt to apply for child support without any court order or agreement in place.  Under s. 31(1)  of the FLA, every parent has an obligation to pay support for a child of the relationship if the child is:

  1. Unmarried;
  2. A minor;
  3. Enrolled in a full time program of education; or
  4. Unable by reason of illness, disability or other cause to withdraw from charge of their parent.

So generally, if the child is over 18 and self-sufficient, it is very unlikely that a court would make an order for child support.

The parent may be successful in a claim for retroactive child support.  The general rule is that retroactive child support can be ordered back to three years before the child support recipient can prove that they asked for child support, or that child support should be changed.  Keep watch on our blogs for a future post related to the topic of retroactive child support for more details.

Speaking with a legal representative about the support issues involved in your specific situation is a great way to ensure you can plan for your future.  Contact Rabideau Law to see how we can help you.

The Process of Getting a Separation Agreement Done

The Process of Getting a Separation Agreement Done

What follows below will be a general overview of the process for completing a separation agreement.  It begins by contacting our office and concludes with the completed separation agreement that is provided to the client.

Please note that this is not a precise account of how the process works, but merely a general guideline.  Each situation is unique. Furthermore, different types of agreements and different types of retainers with our firm necessitate varying approaches to this process.  Keep in mind that this process is not limited to just separation agreements, but can be applied to any kind of domestic contracts such as a cohabitation agreement or a marriage contract (and/or a prenup).

Step 1 – Initial Contact: A potential client contacts our firm by phone, email or in person, and we arrange an in office meeting with one of our lawyers for a consultation (click here if you would like to book a consultation, hyperlink to relevant part of website).

Step 2 – The Consultation: The potential client brings any relevant documents to the consultation so that we can determine what may be the best legal solution to their legal problem.  This consultation is an information session, and we are not hired at this stage to represent the potential client.

Step 3 – The Retainer (aka the Contract): If the potential client wishes to draft a separation agreement, we will draft a formal retainer (i.e. contract between you and the lawyer) that must be signed by the client and our firm before we begin any work. This document covers the type of legal services that the firm would provide to you.

Step 4 – Gathering Info: Once the retainer is signed by the potential client and our firm, that potential client is now our client.  We provide the client with a questionnaire that asks them to provide as much information as possible including things such as their finances, children, employment, assets and debts.

Step 5 – Drafting the Agreement: After the questionnaire is complete, the client provides it to our firm and we use that information to draft a separation agreement.   This can also include drafting financial statements.  We take this time to include the details from your questionnaire into the agreement, and include any specific terms or conditions that may have been discussed.  During this stage we may ask you for more information in order to effectively include all necessary items.

Step 6 – Reviewing the First Draft: Once the first draft is completed, we contact the client to review the agreement with them to see if any other provisions need to be included or removed.  This is to ensure that the agreement matches the client’s intentions and wishes.

Step 7 – Opposing Party Review and Negotiation: Once the first draft is approved by the client, we send a copy of the draft to the other spouse’s lawyer for them to review.  If any terms need to be adjusted, we contact the other lawyer to negotiate until all parties agree to the terms and conditions of the separation agreement.

Step 8 – Final Review and Execution: Once everyone is in agreement, we create a final draft copy of the agreement for your review.  We arrange a meeting where you attend our office and we review the final draft of the agreement in detail.  Should everything be in order, we execute the agreement by having you sign the agreement with a witness and date your signature.  This is done on multiple copies of the agreement, usually one for each party and one for each lawyer totalling 4 copies.  Once executed, the lawyer at our firm will sign an Independent Legal Advice Certificate (“ILA Certificate”).

Step 9 – Completion: We then provide all signed copies to the opposing party for them to sign, witness and date, and for their lawyer to also provide an ILA Certificate.  Once that is done, they mail two completed copies back to us and we provide the client with one completed separation agreement completing the process.

Typically this process takes about 2-3 weeks to complete.  This timeline is dependent on how much negotiation needs to take place in order to resolve all outstanding issues.  However, negotiating the details of your separation outside of court is a faster, simpler, and more cost-effective means of dealing with issues.

Should your spouse provide you with an agreement, we can discuss providing Independent Legal Advice services for you.  This would essentially reverse the roles of the parties in the process outlined above.

If you are looking to get a domestic contract drafted, feel free to contact our firm to see what legal services may be best suited to your particular needs.