Is $62,000 in Temporary Monthly Spousal Support Reasonable?
In a recent Ontario decision called Blatherwick v. Blatherwick, the court had to consider whether a wife’s existing temporary spousal support – currently at $12,000 per month – should be increased by another $50,000 per month.
The couple had been married for 29 years and had three children in what was a traditional marriage. The husband had been a successful businessman, while the wife stayed at home to care for the children. After separating, they commenced the process of negotiating and untangling their financial affairs, which included an equalization payment of over $1 million to the wife (almost half of which had already been paid to her as an advance) and temporary spousal support payments by the husband to the wife of about $12,000 per month, pending final resolution of the issues at trial.
However, the wife brought an interim application to the court, asking for increased support. Although the husband acknowledged that the wife was entitled to some spousal support, he did not agree with the amount she was seeking – namely $62,000 per month instead of the $12,000 per month he was currently paying.
The wife had arrived at this spousal support figure based on the assertion that (according to her expert) the husband was likely earning an estimated $1.5 million per year in income. This estimate was necessary because the husband had not been particularly forthcoming on the actual figures: Indeed, he had not only been evasive, but by his own admission he had submitted various conflicting and inaccurate income figures to the court, to Canada Revenue Agency, and to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. On this aspect, the motions judge observed:
In order for Mr. Blatherwick’s position to be upheld at trial, not only will he have to be believed but his various business partners will also have to be believed. Given his credibility as conceded above, I need not set out the litany of inconsistencies and dubious documentation proffered by both he and his business partners. This must be left to the enjoyment of the trial judge.
The motions judge then turned to the merits. First of all, the judge observed that although the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines do not apply once a paying spouse’s annual income exceeds the $350,000 mark, this does not mean that there is a “cap” on the amount of spousal support that can be awarded once that income level is reached. Rather, the Guidelines provide a range of spousal support for the court to consider, depending the parties’ circumstances, need, and ability to pay.
The judge also pointed out that in considering temporary spousal support applications, there is a presumption that the separated spouses should enjoy an equal standard of living and should enjoy a similar lifestyle pending the final resolution of their issues.
Here, the proceedings were in an early stage and the motions judge had to consider the factual evidence as was currently available. After looking at all the facts (and after making further comment on the husband’s “admitted lack of credibility”) the judge imputed to the husband an annual income of $463,000, and increased the wife’s temporary spousal support so that she would receive $20,000 per month. In doing so, the judge observed that the wife “can clearly make ends meet on this amount.”
For the full text of the decision, see:
Blatherwick v. Blatherwick, 2012 ONSC 3606 http://canlii.ca/t/frsxd
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