Wealthy Parties Revisit Spousal Support Order

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For people on the outside, the lifestyles of the fabulously wealthy can be a source of fascination. Just as celebrities may live a life filled with possessions and experiences most of us may never experience, their financial complications can also be unique. When it comes to high-asset divorce, there can often be difficulties with property division and extremely high child or spousal support obligations. Some of these unique factors are highlighted in a recent decision from the Court of Appeal for Ontario.

Original decision leads to high spousal support obligations

The original divorce decision was issued in 2018. The father, who was a successful entrepreneur, and later one of the stars of television’s Dragon’s Den, was ordered to make an equalization payment of $2,689,558 to the mother. He was also ordered to pay monthly spousal support of $125,000 per month and child support of $14,233 per month.

In large, the spousal support amount was set as a result of the mother’s contributions to the family’s success. She left her job as an optometrist while the parties’ children were younger. That professional sacrifice contributed to the father’s success. Now, at the age of 54, she was used to a lavish lifestyle and was unlikely to be able to enter the workforce again.

The family enjoyed a lavish lifestyle

By the time of their separation, the couple had accumulated substantial assets and lived a life that reflected their exceptional income. Their home in Toronto’s “Bridal Path” area was purchased for $7 million and later sold for $17.395 million. They also owned a $2.6 million condo in Florida, a $5 million cottage in Muskoka, and a ski chalet in Northern Ontario. They also enjoyed the use of a private jet which they used for European vacations.

Father asks court to lower amount and duration of spousal support

The father raised a number of issues at appeal, including arguing the trial judge erred in her assessment of the mother’s needs and means, and that a termination date for spousal support should have been issued.

In looking at the needs and means of the mother, the father focused largely on alleged inaccuracies about the money needed for her to purchase a new home and cottage. He also stated that the trial judge did not request a written budget from the mother, and instead estimated her cost of living needs. Finally, he argued that the requirement to pay $14,233 in child support while their daughter was home during university breaks would amount to double-dipping.

The court did not find any of the points raised by the father to be evidence of  “palpable and overriding” errors. The court said the trial judge was entitled to take her approach to fact-finding, and made either no errors or immaterial errors, during her findings of fact.

On the matter of “indefinite support,” the father was concerned that the order meant there could be no review of the order down the road. The court addressed this concern by stating that there is nothing in the trial judge’s order that would serve to deprive the father of his right to seek a review should there be a material change in circumstances. As a result, the appeal was dismissed and the father was ordered to pay costs in the amount of $30,000.

The divorce lawyers at Howie Johnson Barristers & Solicitors in Windsor, have more than 25 years of experience handling divorce issues for clients with significant and complex assets. We can provide you with the personal support and attention to detail you need in your high-asset divorce.

To speak with a member of our team about high-asset divorce issues, call 519.973.1500, get started now or contact us online. Many of our clients are referred to us by former and current clients, as well as by lawyers, accountants and other professionals.

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