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MAINTENANCE AND SUPPORT - Spousal support - Considerations - Compensatory support - Contribution to marriage or spouse’s career - Needs and means test - Quantum - Amount of award

Friday, June 02, 2017 @ 8:41 AM  

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Appeal by the husband from a trial judgment awarding the wife indefinite spousal support of $500 per month. The parties separated in 2015 after a 14-year marriage and a 21-year relationship. They had two children born in 2004 and 2006. The husband was 45 years old and had an income of $107,316 annually. The wife was 42 years old and worked as a mail carrier earning $56,997 annually. She had foregone at least one employment opportunity with the RCMP, after passing the entry exam, due to her family commitments. From 2005 onward she worked as a mail carrier, but only part-time until 2013 because of her family responsibilities. While with Canada Post, the wife twice took maternity leave to care for the newborn children. The husband argued the wife was self-supporting with a secure full-time job and was not entitled to any spousal support.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The trial judge did not err in concluding that the wife had established entitlement under both the compensatory and non-compensatory models of spousal support. The evidence established that she had subordinated her career advancement to the family’s primary care, which better positioned the husband to advance his career. The judge’s findings of income levels, contributions during marriage, economic integration during a long-term relationship, and impact of the marriage breakdown, were supported by evidence and displayed no palpable and overriding error. While the trial judge erred in finding that there was an agreement to quantify spousal support at $500 per month, the error was not overriding. Even without an agreement, $500 monthly was an appropriate quantum. The judge’s conclusion on spousal support derived from the parties’ situation, and his conclusion was consistent with the application of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. The trial judge did not err in finding that the wife was not self-supporting. The evidence showed that her reasonable expenses exceeded her income, requiring her to incur credit card debt and liquidate assets. The evidence entitled the judge to find that an end date of the reasonable period for the wife’s transition toward economic independence was not predictable at the date of trial.

MacDonald v. MacDonald, [2017] N.S.J. No. 151, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, J.E. Fichaud, J.W.S. Saunders and L.L. Oland JJ.A., May 3, 2017. Digest No. TLD-May292017010