Spousal support while still solely at the discretion of the courts has a statutory starting point, namely the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (“SSAG”).
The courts have held that the SSAGs should always be the starting point and a Judge must indicate why he or she is diverging from that perspective.
The SAGGs not only provide a range of spousal support, but a suggested duration taking into account a number of factors, including the age of the parties, the length of their relationship and whether there are any children of it.
After a lengthy marriage, the separating parties often agree to indefinite spousal support appreciating that it will be a long term obligation with no specific end date.
The agreement, if there is a Separation Agreement, would be the launch padfor determining whether or not and under what circumstances support should end. If the Separation Agreement simply contains a standard clause referred to as a material change in circumstances clause, then one must prove that there has been such a change. A material change is one in which the status quo has changed to a significant degree and one asks the parties and in absence of an agreement for the courts to come up with a new Order for support.
The issue of retirement often is looked upon as such a material change in circumstances. It stands to reason that when one stops working with a commensurate severe reduction in incomethat should be a material change in circumstances. In the recent decision of Justice Horkins in Angulo, a husband upon obtaining the age of 68 sought an end to spousal support that he had been paying for 17 years. His former wife had little in the way of income and the husband’s second wife was gainfully employed earning in excess of $100,000.00 per annum.
There was nothing medically pressing that was forcing the husband to retire, he simply felt that enough was enough and that continuing to work was too physically and mentally demanding.
The court ultimately agreed with the reasonableness of the husband retiring at age 68 from his job at a bank and there was no obligation for the second wife to contribute towards the first wife’s spousal support.
There are lessons for many and for once it would appear that common sense has prevailed at the judicial level. One cannot help but feel empathetic to the first wife living on a meager income, but support often cannot be looked upon as a permanent pension except when separating from a person of great financial means.