When a couple gets divorced, there may be an obligation for one party to pay the other spousal support. However, that obligation, including the length support is payable as well as the amount payable, are subject to change if there is a material change in circumstances. Former couples sometimes end up before the courts if they are unable to agree on whether there has been a material change, or if one party thinks the other may be hiding income or not disclosing a material change. A recent decision issued by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice looked at how much access one former spouse can have to another’s financial information.
The parties were married on October 8, 1972. They had two children during the marriage, but they were financially independent at the time of the trial. They separated in 2000 after 28 years of marriage. The husband remarried and had two children who were 10 and 12-years-old. He is 68 years-old and retired on May 31, 2018. The husband had been paying spousal support in the amount of $1,400 per month, but brought a motion to reduce this amount following his retirement. The wife, who was 76-years-old, brought a cross motion six days before the trial. He was looking to increase support to $3,990 per month. She sought financial disclosure from the husband and his current wife. She alleged he was hiding investments by registering them in the name of his new wife.
Full financial disclosure
The wife sought full financial disclosure so that the court could make an accurate assessment of how much spousal support the husband should be paying her. However, the could found the request for extensive disclosure to be premised on speculation, and found the request to be unreasonable. The husband had disclosed his income as well as that of his new wife. He also detailed how they share expenses. The court noted that such disclosure is typically sufficient, and that there were no rights to disclose beyond those facts. The court wrote,
“A former spouse is not entitled to the “full financial picture” of a spouse’s new partner by right. Such disclosure would be extensive and intrusive. As Justice Kristjanson stated in Politis v. Politis, 2018 ONSC 323 (Ont. S.C.J.) at para. 17: Compelling the production of personal income, asset and other financial information of new life partners is highly invasive of personal privacy and generally of minimal relevance. The privacy interests of third party new partners must be carefully balanced against the interests of the parties to the family law proceeding, and any production order carefully scrutinized.”
The husband’s retirement
The court then looked at the husband’s request to have his spousal support obligations lowered. The court pointed out that spousal support can be varied if there is a material change in circumstances, and that retirement certainly qualifies as one. The court found that “He has made a reasonable decision to retire and his income is reduced. (the husband’s) obligation to his dependent children, on a reduced income, is yet another factor that supports the finding that his retirement and resulting drop in income, constitute a material change in circumstances.”
As a result, the court decided to terminate the spousal support arrangement.
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