The Appalling Realities of Canadian Spousal Support

All of the following is either from case law or tax law (more references coming soon):

  • Your assets are effectively frozen and placed in your ex-spouse’s financial queue. Everything you have will be allocated to support: no spending beyond basic necessities is tolerated. This includes any funds awarded to you in your separation agreement, along with my post-divorce inheritance. (Leskun v. Leskun, 2006; also, judgement of Madame Justice Dorgan, case reference to be added). Your ex is not expected or required to use any of their savings. You are not permitted to make financial decisions regarding these funds; they must be set aside for future support payments, if and when necessary.
  • You have no control over your estate. You are not allowed to pass on your property to your child or children; any such transfer would be nullified as “false conveyance,” because the court reserves the right to confiscate and transfer your home, along with everything else of yours, to your ex.
  • The court has control over your professional life. You are not permitted to pursue a different line of work that could have lesser compensation, even if temporarily (Donovan v. Donovan, 2000).
  • The court controls your income. You are not allowed to earn more, as it will trigger additional costly court proceedings, whether or not you can afford them; increase the amount of support you have to pay; and set a new, even higher standard for what you are required to earn in the future.
  • The court has control over your personal life. A judge admonished one of us for spending a small amount of our inheritance on a hobby. The judge also indicated there is a requirement to move to another city — away from family, friends, home — if a position that maintains current pay cannot be found.
  • The court can set unachievable compensation requirements. You are not permitted to earn less money than what you were making at the time of the separation agreement, or you will be deemed “intentionally underemployed” and your former income will be imputed to you for the purposes of support. You must earn to capacity (Beissner v. Matheusik, 2014). Ageism and changing market circumstances, while making it difficult or impossible to maintain a specific income, are not taken into consideration (Schmidt v. Sucke 2013).
  • You have no privacy. You are required to report on all of your expenditures, and as above, will be judged on them.
  • The court is allowed to alter legal agreements. Separation agreements can be overridden.
  • You are treated like a criminal. If you can’t pay support, you face confiscation of your ID, garnishment of wages, confiscation of property, and jail time.
  • Support benefits only the recipient. Any financial success on the payor’s part must be shared with the recipient, but this is not true in reverse, contradicting an oft-cited “merging over time” rationale for support. In fact, any income earned by the recipient is not deducted from support payments — making it easy for the recipient to outstrip the payor in terms of earnings.
  • Spousal support survives bankruptcy. Support must be paid throughout and following a bankruptcy.
  • You may not be allowed to retire. The court may require you to continue paying support beyond age 65.
  • Tax law discriminates against payors of spousal support. There is a financial incentive for recipients to keep coming back to sue for more: they can write off legal fees, whereas payors cannot.
  • Finding a new partner is discouraged. Dating, especially with your peers, may be beyond your financial means. But even if you could find someone, marriage or cohabitation would be very risky and ill-advised, as joint assets are at risk of confiscation by the court.