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MAINTENANCE AND SUPPORT - Requirement of attaining self-sufficiency

Thursday, May 23, 2019 @ 8:31 AM  


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Appeal by the wife from an order terminating spousal support. The parties divorced in 1996 after a 15-year marriage. The husband was awarded custody of both children and was ordered to pay $4,750 per month in spousal support on an indefinite basis. The support order made no provision for support to be indexed to any increases in income. The award was premised on the wife quickly returning to the workforce. Although she had been out of the professional workforce for 10 years during the marriage, she had business experience, had since obtained further professional qualifications and did not have child care responsibilities. The wife never re-entered the workforce and the husband paid support for 22 years. In 2016, in anticipation of his retirement, he brought a motion to terminate spousal support. The motion judge found that the wife never obtained employment, despite having marketable skills, because she never made any serious attempt to do so. The motion judge found that any disadvantage to the appellant had been compensated for by the length of the support and any current economic hardship was not a result of the marriage or its breakdown, but the wife’s own choices.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The motion judge did not place an unreasonable emphasis on the objective of self-sufficiency but specifically assessed each of the objectives under s. 17(7) of the Divorce Act. In finding that the trial judge did not award spousal support on a compensatory basis, the motion judge was alive to the fact that the wife withdrew from paid work outside the home, that she had significant child care responsibilities, and that her child care obligations were sharply reduced at the time of separation and eliminated entirely by 2000, when all of the burdens of parenting were on the husband. Even if the trial order was made in part on a compensatory basis, that would not entitle the wife to support in perpetuity. Given the motion judge’s finding that the wife made no attempt to become self-sufficient, it was entirely appropriate that she not be entitled to participate in the husband’s increase in income. While the termination of support appeared harsh, given the resources available to the husband, the motion judge was entitled to make the order that he did.

Choquette v. Choquette, [2019] O.J. No. 2004, Ontario Court of Appeal, D. Watt, B. Miller and I.V.B. Nordheimer JJ.A., April 17, 2019. Digest No. TLD-May202019009