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Is Four Years Long Enough for Wife to “Adjust” to Canada?

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Is Four Years Long Enough for Wife to “Adjust” to Canada?

After a divorce, the question of whether a former spouse is entitled to spousal support involves many factors and considerations: One of them is financial means of the spouse who is paying; the other is the level of economic self-sufficiency of the other spouse who would be receiving it.

In a recent Ontario case, one of the key questions for the courts was how long it should take a separate wife to “adjust” to Canada, to the point where she could work and be self-sufficient enough not to need her former husband’s financial support.

The couple had met on-line in 2002, and were married in Panama in 2004. The wife, together with her child from a previous relationship, moved to Canada in 2007 under the husband’s sponsorship. When they separated two years later, the husband was earning almost $80,000 per year, while the wife was unemployed.

On an interim basis pending their divorce, the husband was ordered to pay a total of $62,500 spread out over four years, mainly for spousal support.

However, as part of the later divorce proceedings the wife asked for spousal support beyond that initial 4-year period, claiming the husband should pay support to her until she could find a full-time job working 35 hours per week. The court described her position this way:

The applicant was self-sufficient before losing her job [in Panama]. After that she became dependent on the respondent. When the applicant arrived in Canada, her dependency on the respondent increased. She was living in a new country where she had no friends or family other than the respondent. The applicant was concerned about her son who spoke minimal English and was anxious to get him settled in his new life.

While conceding the wife’s significant dependence on the husband, the court pointed out that her current efforts to find work were not particularly persistent or focused:

Unfortunately, the [wife] has devoted time trying to upgrade her education rather than earning income. She is now focused on working as a teacher, but she has no idea if her credentials will be accepted by the College.

The [wife] has had ample time to adjust to living in Toronto. Her son is settled in school. They have been living in Toronto for almost six years. While I accept that she has been looking for work, her efforts have not been aggressive and focused. Her job search record shows that she has been emailing her resume. She has not recently relied on any job placement agencies to assist her.

Moreover, the court accepted the husband’s position that by this point, the wife could be earning at least $20,000 per year, for example by working part-time in a restaurant, store, or as a cleaning lady. In making its determination, and imputed this income to the wife accordingly.

In the end, and in light of all these circumstances, the court ordered the husband to pay an additional 12 months support of almost $1,000 per month, past the 4-year mark, after which time his obligations to her would end. In other words, a total of 5 years of support from the husband was adequate in the circumstances.

For the full text of the decision, see:

A. (L.M.) v. H. (P.) (2014), 2014 ONSC 1707; additional reasons at (2014), 2014 ONSC 3366

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at www.RussellAlexander.com