Chris R

This page is a snapshot of where I was at in 2018. For an update as of 2022, see Spousal Support: An Open Letter to the Canadian Justice System.

I left my wife in 2010. It was not an easy marriage; she contributed little, almost never working, and was emotionally abusive to me, and similarly abusive and neglectful of our child. I still have PTSD-like symptoms from this experience. (All of this is documented in affidavits.) At the time of the separation, I had already been supporting my wife without reciprocation for about eight years. Nevertheless, I agreed to pay spousal support at the high end of the scale for another six years.

Through this period, my effective rate of taxation — spousal support, a mandatory life insurance policy on my life with my ex as the beneficiary, and income tax — has been almost 60%. I challenge anyone to live like this long term, particularly in a city as expensive as Vancouver. Maybe with a seven-figure income it would be sustainable.

However, it became apparent that my ex expected to be paid for the rest of her life, and for the past couple of years I have been fighting this in court. In August 2018, a judge at the Supreme Court of British Columbia, in Victoria, ruled against me — not only overruling the end date I negotiated (and which both the Canada Revenue Agency and Family Maintenance Enforcement Program had recognized), but also awarding my ex-wife retroactive support through a period I was unemployed last winter, plus court costs. These amounts, over $32,000 in total, are coming directly from the funds I was granted in my separation agreement and from a (nominal) inheritance I received long after the marriage ended. My ex-wife should not have a claim on either.

  • My employment income December 2017 – March 2018: $0
  • Spousal support I have been made to pay, retroactively, for the same period: $18,200

I am not even allowed to see the judgement against me, unless I pay the court $1,000.

After spending most of my life savings trying to get an end date for support, the judge refused to set one, or even reduce the amount of support I must pay, saying I could come back to court later for this — despite knowing, from my financial statements, that I will not be able to afford to do so.

Similarly, no provision was granted for future periods of unemployment or underemployment: I will have to keep paying support regardless of my income, even if it is zero. As a tech worker in my mid-fifties, I am encountering ageism — which is well-known and documented in my industry and of which I informed the court. I am finding it increasingly difficult to find any work, let alone at my previous level of compensation. I am currently working at an un-funded startup, which is precarious. I have applied for over 100 jobs in the last year and have not been offered anything else.

I am terrified. Almost everything I’ve worked for over the last 30 years is gone, and I have an enormous line of credit debt. Now, what little that my parents and grandparents passed on to me is being confiscated and given to my ex-wife. There will be nothing left for my child. The message from the court is clear: regardless of how bad things get for me, there is to be no impact on my ex-wife.

There is no onus on her to do anything. She claims to be too ill to work, regardless of the fact that she recently completed a degree at Royal Roads, with a GPA of 4.2 (just shy of A+, by my understanding). But even if she is sick, it was never explained nor even debated in court how this is my fault or why it should be my responsibility when I am not legally married to her. The court has essentially designated me as her private welfare provider for life.

At this point, almost my entire paycheque is given over to support and related expenses. That does not include counsel fees. I am to live on not much more than $1,000 per month: mortgage and strata (which, it goes without saying, is over $1,000), food, and everything else. My ex is getting $5,550 a month from me. How am I supposed to do this? Why am I required to do this? It feels punitive.

Monthly figures:

  • Amount my ex receives in social assistance: $0
  • Her disability benefits: $0
  • Support she receives from her family: $0
  • Her employment income: $0
  • Support I am required to pay her every month: $4,550
  • My monthly payments on her court costs (14 months): $1,000
  • My line of credit interest from support “arrears” and legal fees: $700 and increasing
  • Mandatory life insurance policy I am required to maintain on my life, with my ex as the beneficiary: $91.60