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Husband Squanders Family Money, Quits a Good Job, and Moves Back to Poland – Can He Avoid Paying Spousal Support?

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Husband Squanders Family Money, Quits a Good Job, and Moves Back to Poland – Can He Avoid Paying Spousal Support?

The couple were polish immigrants, who immigrated to Canada in the late 1980s.  They separated after 20 years of marriage.  The marriage was traditional one, with the electrician husband being the major breadwinner, and the wife taking care of the home and childcare duties, alongside some paid housecleaning when possible.  The husband’s income was roughly triple that of the wife’s.

However, over the course of their marriage the husband had single-handedly squandered much of their joint money. For example, against the wife’s objections, they had sold the jointly-owned matrimonial home in 2000 with the husband promising they would use the $65,000 proceeds to buy a larger home.  However, they never did;  instead, he secretly used the money to invest in the stock market and ended up losing it all.  He also withdrew at least $75,000 from his RRSP and had no explanation for where the money went.  The court added:

Between the years 2000 and 2012, [the husband] depleted staggering amounts of money, much of it without satisfactory explanation. Some of the monies were lost due to [the husband’s] unwise investments in the stock market. However, a significant amount of monies were dissipated without an explanation by [the husband] as to what they were spent on.  …

One of the many issues between the couple was the spousal support that the husband owed to the wife. When the couple first separated, he had been ordered by the court to pay monthly spousal support to the wife.  He paid these only begrudgingly;  on one of the cheques, he wrote the word “ztodziejstwo”, which means “thievery” when translated into English.  He stopped paying support entirely in 2015.

Then, he unceremoniously quit his job and moved to Poland without telling the wife, where he found work for about $16,000 but then failed to pass the employer’s probation period.  Even if he could find and keep a comparable job, this $16,000 salary was considerably lower than the $120,000 he was earning in Canada.  However, he said he had no intention to ever return, citing a need to look after his aging parents who were still in Poland.

Meanwhile, the wife – who had trained as a dental assistant but could find no work – was unable to become self-sufficient.  She therefore requested lump-sum spousal support based on an imputed income that the husband would otherwise be earning.  He still had pension assets in Canada which were secured and protected by way of a prior court order and could be used to pay her that lump sum.

The court considered her request, citing the relevant factors as including: her level of need; whether it would be difficult to obtain periodic support from the husband in Poland; the precariousness of his employment; and the fact that he left the country.  The court said:

[The husband] deliberately, unilaterally, and voluntarily left his secure, long-term, lucrative employment at Presstran in St. Thomas. He did so without regard to his obligations to [the wife]. He has left the jurisdiction. I find that [the husband] took the steps he did in an attempt to avoid his support obligations.

In all the circumstances, the court accepted the wife’s support claim and ordered it to be paid by lump-sum; it also ordered retroactive support to cover those periods where the husband failed to pay her support at all, despite being under a court order to do so.   Finally, the court also ordered an equalization of their NFPs, after factoring in the squandered sums of money, and the full value of property in Poland that he refused to admit that he owned.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Hamernik v. Hamernik

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