For some people going through separation or divorce, the thought of having to pay spousal support for an extended period of time can be a cause of stress. However, it’s important to remember that the intention of spousal support is to allow the parties from a relationship to maintain a standard of living close to what they had when they were together. In some situations, only one party in a relationship might have employment, meaning when they separate, that person will have to give a portion of their income to the other person. Of course, there can be situations that lead to a change in the amount of spousal support required to be paid. Retirement is often one such situation, but as we see in a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, retirement does not always lead to a reduction of support.
Husband was sole breadwinner while couple was married
The parties were married in 1975 and were together for 16 years. The husband was the principal income earner while they were married, working for 39 years at a local mill. The mill closed when he was 57, and he retired. He is now 72-years-old.
A 1993 spousal support order stipulated that the husband would have to pay spousal support up to, but not exceeding, $750 per month. This amount was set with the intention that the wife would need about $25,000 per year to live on.
The husband asked the court to eliminate his spousal support requirements, stating that the wife is self-sufficient and does not need support. He also argued that his retirement amounted to a material change in circumstances.
Wife says she should continue to receive spousal support
While the husband said the wife did not need spousal support, the wife said that she does not make enough to support herself, presenting the court with a financial statement showing that she makes just barely enough to get by. While she has a healthy net worth, she stated it is almost entirely made up of the value of her home, which is mortgage-free. She said she could not sell the house and continue to live off its proceeds since she would then have to find new accommodations. She also said that while it’s true her ex-husband has retired, he also has a new partner, and as such as more income than what he receives from his pension.
The court looks at the financial circumstances of each party
In 2019, the husband’s gross income from all sources was $54,534. Most of this comes from his pension income and other investments. He has no debt and shows a monthly surplus of $991.78. None of this takes into account his partner’s income, which is $19,000 per year.
By contrast, the wife has an annual income of $32,435, of which $6,000 comes from spousal support. She runs a monthly deficit of $623, which she uses her RRSPs to make up for.
The court determined that it was likely the parties would continue to make the same amount they currently do since they are both retired. The court also found that the husband has the ability to pay spousal support without incurring any hardship.
As a result, the court not only denied his request for reduced spousal support, it actually increased it to $750 per month.