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Calgary Alberta Family Dower Rights

Vancouver Calgary Spousal Support Self Sufficiency cases raise the issue of sharing economic disadvantage arising from relationship breakdown against the need and possible duty for both spouses to move toward self-sufficiency after their relationship ends. The number 1 question we get asked is: How much spousal support is payable and for how long does spousal support get paid?

In an economy where no one’s job is secure, isn’t it in everyone’s interest to retrain, reeducate and re-enter the workforce it at all possible? We cannot let paying spouses slack off any more than permitting receiving spouses to refuse to look for work.

Record Winning Spousal Support Lawyers 

Lorne MacLean, QC has won some of the biggest spousal support cases including a BC record of $100,000 a month spousal support award in 2019 in D v D. MacLean Law is a five-time winner as Vancouver’s Best family law firm* and we have 6 offices in BC and 1 in downtown Calgary to help you.*(Top Choice Award (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), top-rated reviews on Google, and Lorne MacLean, QC is also a lawyer for both Vancouver and Surrey.

Fraser MacLean one of our skilled Vancouver Calgary Spousal Support Self Sufficiency students addresses this thorny issue in his blog today. Reach Fraser on your spousal support issue at 604-602-9000.

What Is Vancouver Calgary Spousal Support Self Sufficiency? 

If your spouse is claiming spousal support, what obligation do they have to become self-sufficient and support themselves?  

One of the objectives under section 15.2(6)(d) of the Divorce Act is: “in so far as practicable, promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time.” (Tedham v. Tedham 2005 BCCA 502) See also section 161 of the Family Law Act. 

A support recipient’s attainment of self-sufficiency is one of the common arguments for “no entitlement”. Case law establishes that self-sufficiency is not an absolute standard and must be understood in the context of the parties’ standard of living (SAAG Users Guide, 2010).

 Is There A Duty Of Support? 

The meanings of self-sufficiency can vary depending on whether the basis of entitlement is compensatory or non-compensatory. The writers of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines note that sometimes it is a consideration of entitlement; i.e. spousal support should terminate and the recipient will have to be “self-sufficient”, relying only upon her or his own resources. Sometimes it is used in a non-compensatory fashion, i.e. the recipient is now able to meet her or his own needs and achieve the appropriate standard of living.

In cases where spouses have made insufficient efforts towards self-sufficiency, support will be terminated on the basis that sufficient time has been allowed for self-sufficiency to be achieved: see Aspe v. Aspe, 2010 BCCA 508.

In Lee v. Lee 2014 BCCA 383 at para 58 , the court cited  Bracklow, Yemchuk 2005 BCCA 406, Tedham v. Tedham, 2005 BCCA 502, Hodgkinson v. Hodgkinson, 2006 BCCA 158 and Fisher v. Fisher, 2008 ONCA 11, for the proposition that “need” and “self-sufficiency” are relative terms to be assessed “in relation to the economic partnership the parties enjoyed and could sustain during cohabitation, and that they can reasonably anticipate after separation ….”; “…sufficiency must be viewed in the context of the marital standard of living: Tedham v. Tedham .

With regards to the transitional aspect of a spousal support award, the court in Lee v. Lee stated at para 66

 … the case law of this province referred to above does indicate that a party who experiences a marked decline in standard of living due to divorce should receive some financial assistance (either in the form of re-apportionment of assets or maintenance) in adjusting to his or her new situation — hence the concept of a “transitional” award, which is recognized by the SSAG.

Vancouver Calgary Spousal Support Self Sufficiency methods of dealing with inadequate efforts to achieve self-sufficiency include the following:

Impute income to the recipient: Note that the authors of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines state at p.84. “The better way to deal with the self-sufficiency issue is to impute income to the recipient, in light of her or his skill, experience, etc.” The ability of a court to impute income recognizes that spouses seeking support must also make reasonable efforts to support themselves: MacCarthy v. MacCarthy, 2015 BCCA 496. For example, in MacEachern v. MacEachern 2006 BCCA 508 the court held that appropriate manner to deal with the finding that the wife’s efforts to obtain self-sufficiency were less than whole-hearted was to impute income to her. 

Income can also be imputed on a spouse that is underemployed. When imputing income the question is usually: what income could this specific recipient earn, with his or her experience, education and qualifications (see Moge v. Moge, [1992] 3 S.C.R. 813)?

       Order a lower amount in the range: a lower amount can provide an incentive to earn more, especially where a court has imputed a lower income to the recipient than might have been possible, as in MacEachern, supra.

       Fix an initial time limit under the without child support formula: time limits provide clear direction that support will end at a future date, which means the recipient must find other sources of income or face a lower standard of living.

Short Marriages Increase Duty Of Spousal Support Self Sufficiency 

A discussion of the varying meanings of self-sufficiency can be found in the oft-cited Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in Fisher v. Fisher, 2008 ONCA 11 at paragraphs 52-55, which were recently summarized in Friesen-Stowe v. Stowe, 2015 ONSC 554 (Fisher v. Fisher has been cited in Chutter v. Chutter, 2008 BCCA 507 and Lee v. Lee, 2014 BCCA 383, amongst others):

[25] …Self-sufficiency is often more attainable in short term marriages, particularly ones without children, where the lower income spouse has not become entrenched in a particular lifestyle, or compromised career aspirations. In such situations, the lower income spouse is expected to have the tools to become financially independent or to adjust his or her standard of living. In contrast, in most long term marriages, particularly in traditional long term ones, the parties’ merger of economic lifestyles creates a joint standard of living that the lower income spouse cannot hope to replicate, but upon which he or she has become dependent. In such circumstances, the spousal support analysis typically will not give priority to self-sufficiency because it is an objective that simply cannot be attained [emphasis added]

Even in the recent 15 year long relationship case of Rochon v Rochon the wife received no permanent any spousal support despite the husband having high income and substantial assets.

Underemployment Will Be Discouraged In Spousal Support Self Sufficiency Cases 

A case where the court found the wife was underemployed is K. (G.V.) v. K. (E.V.), 2013 BCSC 2310 (8 year marriage, husband 40 and wife 37), where the husband sought order dismissing the wife’s claim for spousal support and terminating interim spousal support order. The court was satisfied wife was underemployed. She was capable of earning much more and the court imputed income on the wife and reduced the support payments. Spousal support was to continue for two more years and then cease. That time would allow the wife to take necessary steps either to complete the employment upgrades that would allow her to begin earning income to her potential. The Court stated [paras. 50 and 52]:

The respondent must become self-supporting within a reasonable time after separation. She is young and has far more earning potential than she gives herself credit for.

The fact is that 3.5 years have passed since the parties separated. In my view, spousal support should continue for two more years and then cease. This time will allow the respondent to take the necessary steps either to complete her Nursing Unit Clerk or such other program that will allow her to begin earning income to her potential.

If you are paying support or will be paying support and have reason to believe your spouse could be making greater efforts to achieve self-sufficiency, contact MacLean Law right away.

Call 1 877 602 9900 now.