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If You Decide to Appeal, Can You Stop Paying Support?

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If You Decide to Appeal, Can You Stop Paying Support?

If you go through the Family Court system and get a ruling from a judge that requires you to pay spousal support, and then you decide to appeal, does that mean you can unilaterally stop paying that court-ordered support until the appeal is heard?

The short answer is: No. (At least not without a court’s permission).

This was illustrated recently in a case heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The parties had already had several prior hearings, at least one of which ordered the husband to pay the wife spousal support in specified amounts. The husband did not make the payments as ordered, and in fact he was in arrears for almost $250,000. He had also been ordered previously to post a letter of credit for $585,000 as security for future spousal support that he would owe, and to designate his wife as the beneficiary under his life insurance policy for that same amount. The husband did comply with those previous orders, either.

To the contrary, the husband decided to bring an appeal. The wife countered with a motion to essentially block it, asking the court to refuse to entertain the husband’s appeal in light of his refusal to comply with earlier spousal support orders.

In hearing the wife’s motion, the Court pointed out that spousal support orders are not automatically put on “pause” simply because the person ordered to pay decides to bring an appeal. (Rather, the Rules of Civil Procedure do allow for a person to bring a motion for a “stay pending appeal”, but it must be granted by a court; otherwise, the obligation to pay support is not automatically on-hold).

Moreover, the court can actually decide to refuse to hear the submissions of the person who is in default of his or her court-ordered obligations.

The court went on to clarify that there are certain other alternatives when faced with the situation where the party ordered to pay spousal or child support has not done so: The court can dismiss the appeal, or the court can adjourn the proceedings, pending compliance with the trial order. As the court explained:

In our view, where an appellant wishes to be relieved of his or her trial ordered obligations pending appeal, the proper approach is to bring a stay motion where the circumstances can be brought before the court. If that is not done, then although the court may still hear the appeal in circumstances the court feels require that approach, the court will normally not hear the appeal until the trial order has been complied with.

Applying those principles to the case at hand, the court concluded that: 1) the father’s support-payment obligations continued in full force pending any appeal he may bring; and 2) it would not hear the father’s appeal until he complied with those earlier support orders.

For the full text of the decision, see:

A.A. v. Z.G., 2016 ONCA 660 (CanLII)

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 RussellAlexander.com.