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Wife Goes Back to School, Improves Income by 75% – Does Husband Get Support?

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Wife Goes Back to School, Improves Income by 75% – Does Husband Get Support?

In a recent case called Regnier v. Regnier, the court considered a narrow issue: whether a wife’s decision during the marriage to go back to school automatically meant that the husband suffered financial disadvantage, for which he should be compensated by way of spousal support.

The couple had been married almost 20 years when they separated. Although both were making about $100,000 each in the years leading up to that event, the wife had improved her income by recently completing a 20-month Master’s program. She had done so while continuing to work full-time as a nurse.

With the Master’s degree in hand, she was now earning about $172,000 – an increase of almost 75%. This drastic increase in the wife’s income prompted the husband to ask the court for an order forcing her to pay him spousal support.
The court declined.

Given that the wife did her studying largely at home, the husband and their children essentially had to commit to and cooperate with her plan for career advancement. However, that plan was intended to benefit them all as a family. Moreover, the wife’s greatly-improved earnings had nothing to do with any financial sacrifice by the husband — who, it had to be pointed out, continued to have success at his own work, and to enjoy various promotion opportunities.

The court pointed out that under Canadian law, compensatory-type spousal support is intended “as a means of indemnifying a spouse who suffers economic disadvantage flowing from the marriage and its breakdown.” But this was simply not the situation here. Rather – and while conceding that the husband likely had to perform household tasks he was otherwise unaccustomed to doing – the court concluded that he “did not advance any evidence tending to show that he suffered any prejudice to his employment opportunities or aspirations. His complaint was mostly related to unrealized purchases he had hoped for, such as a sports car to work on.”

The husband’s claim for spousal support was dismissed.

For the full-text of the decision, see:

Regnier v. Regnier, 2014 ONSC 5480

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.