I will start at the beginning which was 2006. I was divorcing my husband of 16 years and was able to settle amicably using mediation. I had been the principle breadwinner as a nurse for most of the marriage, and my ex had been in and out of work for years. To make a long story short, after too many years of hoping he would change and trying everything I could think of to deal with it, I finally got out.
Luckily for me, the legal system was on my side. I ended up with custody of our kids and their father had visitation every other weekend. All I had to do was hand over $12000 in RRSPs, give up $40000 in equity in my house and refuse to take child support and I was done! No more money would change hands. It helped a lot that society (at the time) looked down on men receiving spousal support. He would somehow be less if a man etc… Anyway, that was my story. No more money changed hands…ever.
Now for my present husband’s situation. Very similar but the end result could not be more different.
Again it was 2006; he had been married for 18 years. At first he tried mediation with no results. His ex claimed anxiety and other mental issues and couldn’t agree to anything, couldn’t work etc, so to the lawyers it went.
A bit of background: he worked full time as a janitor for about six years and then had a chance to learn ultrasound on the job and go to night school. She worked as a ward assistant full time at a hospital. She never supported Rick as he worked full time throughout his training. In 1994 they had a daughter. After a 6 month mat leave his ex went back to work. 3 years later there were cutbacks at the hospital and buy-outs were offered. She decided to take the offer and would stay at home until the daughter attended school. Unfortunately for Rick, she refused to ever go back to work, or even go back to school which he suggested many times. They had only 1 child.
It took two years for Rick to finally get a separation agreement with his ex. She claimed depression and anxiety and couldn’t seem to find it in herself to work. In the meantime she was withdrawing money from a joint home equity line of credit for rent etc. By this time Rick and I were together and raising my children and his daughter. (His daughter NEVER lived with her mother after the separation).
The SSG was a very scary thing to us. He could have ended up paying more but finally settled on $2000 a month. This was decreased after a change of jobs to $1600 in 2009 by going to court.
There never seemed to be any question that Rick would have to pay, but the “indefinite” part of it is ridiculous. Here we are 13.5 years later and his ex has done NOTHING in the way of work to attain self sufficiency! She has been living common-law with a man (Rick’s brother, no less) for the entire time! They own a house together and rent out an apartment for at least $1200 a month, too. Somehow it’s okay that we pay her a pension, and she sits back and never works!!
Rick is trying to look toward retirement. He is almost 58 and he won’t be able to retire any time soon. We have no pension plan but have savings set aside to use instead. We would have to prove a material change in circumstances. Good luck with that!
I blame the lawyer back at the time of separation for giving Rick poor advice. There was no review clause and he wasn’t made aware one could be put in the agreement. There was no time limit given for his ex to become self sufficient either. It feels like the lawyers just thought it would be ok that Rick paid her for life! Very discriminatory given my experience giving no spousal support to my ex (my mediator actually turned out to be the lawyer Rick used). It seemed to be ok for a woman to take money from a man, but not vice versa!
Everyone we have ever told Rick’s story to has been incredulous! How can he raise the child and still be stuck paying the ex forever! Well, it happened. We didn’t find out until too late what should have been done. In retrospect he should have had a review clause in the separation agreement and insisted on it.
I have read that marriages that were less than 20 years should not pay indefinite spousal support, Max should be only as long as the years of marriage. Also the “rule of 65” – Rick’s ex was 40 at the time of separation, add 18 to that is 60, so it shouldn’t be indefinite.
Not sure what our next steps will be, it will be expensive no matter what. We plan to somehow find an end to the payments, whether it will be through some sort of new agreement or that Rick will have a health issue, who knows??
I hope with all my heart that the “guidelines” will be changed. No one should have the right to take money from someone else indefinitely, woman or man, abled or disabled. Divorce needs to be final, not drag on for the rest of your life.