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An Ontario court recently granted a wife $30,000 per month in spousal support following her separation from a wealthy businessman.

What Happened?

The husband and wife had a 15 ½ year relationship. They began to cohabit in December, 2001. They were married on June 23, 2006. They separated on May 29, 2017.

The husband is a very successful businessman. He holds interests in a number of related companies that perform commercial dry walling and earns $2.09 million per year. The couple owned a number of properties and lived a prosperous lifestyle.

The wife had not worked outside of the home for the past 11 years. She is 59 years old and was unlikely to obtain outside employment. Her income was calculated as $30,000 per year.

The wife has two, now-adult, children from a previous marriage that the husband assisted in raising.  He continues to financially assist those children, although they are no longer dependents.

Following the parties’ separation, the husband provided a total of $1,759,702 to the wife, which came mainly from the sale of the matrimonial home and a cottage. 

The balance of the $1,759,702 paid to the wife, or $407,250, had been paid to the wife as temporary without prejudice spousal support. It was originally paid at the rate of $12,000 per month, later increased to $15,750 per month. As of August 2018, the husband had been paying the wife $20,000 per month, pursuant to interim agreements.

The wife brought a motion for interim spousal support.

Decision

In determining the amount of spousal support, the court stated that under s. 15.2(4) of the Divorce Act it must “…take into consideration the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of each spouse.” The factors that the court must consider include:

(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.

Additionally, an interim or final spousal support order should meet the following objectives:

(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.

Finally, the considerations that apply when a payor’s income exceeds the $350,000 ceiling as set out the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (“SSAG”) are:

•         The formulas for amount are no longer presumptive once the payor’s income exceeds the “ceiling”. 

•         The ceiling is not an absolute or hard “cap”, as spousal support can and usually does increase for payor incomes above $350,000.  

•         The formulas are not to be applied automatically above the ceiling, although the formulas may provide an appropriate method of determining spousal support in an individual case, depending on the facts.  

•         Above the ceiling, spousal support cases require an individualized, fact-specific analysis. It is not an error, however, to fix an amount in the SSAG range. Evidence and argument are required. 

•         Where the payor’s income is not too far above the ceiling, the formula ranges will often be used to determine the amount of spousal support, with outcomes falling in the low-to mid range for amount. How far is “not too far above” is still not clear. Somewhere between $500,000 and $700,000, it seems. 

•         Once the payor’s income is “far” above the ceiling, then the amount of support ordered will usually be below the low end of the SSAG range, but SSAG ranges are still calculated and sometimes the outcome will fall within the SSAG range.

The court granted the wife’s motion, concluding:

“In considering all of these factors, including the length of the relationship, the non-compensatory nature of support entitlement, the equalization already paid and yet to be paid, as well as the relative budgets of the parties, I find that an interim spousal support quantum of $30,000 per month is reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances. I so order. In doing so, I recognize that any figure simply represents rough justice that may be adjusted up or down at trial, upon a fuller evidentiary record.”

Get Advice

Separation and divorce are challenging for everyone involved.  When dealing with custody or access disputes, matters involving spousal and child support, the division of assets, and other family issues, emotions can be your worst enemy. Having an experienced family lawyer on your side can help you stay focused and resolve disputes as quickly and amicably as possible.

At Campbell Bader LLP our family team has collectively spent more than twenty years advising clients about family disputes, including those involving high net worth individuals or complex matters.

We value and incorporate collaborative family law principles into our practice, but we’re smart enough to recognize when that approach won’t work for you and we adapt our strategy accordingly. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us online or at 905-828-2247.