Court Cases & Orders

Support “Until Death” Means Exactly That – Supreme Court of Canada Rejects Bid to Appeal Ruling

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Written by Russell Alexander ria@russellalexander.com / (905) 655-6335

Support “Until Death” Mean Exactly That – Supreme Court of Canada Rejects Bid to Appeal Ruling

We have an update on a case we reported on during this past year called Haworth v. Haworth.

The facts involved former spouses who had been separated since 1991, which was a full 30 years prior to their going to court over the validity of the separation agreement they had reached at the time, and which was enshrined in their divorce judgment.   That agreement granted the wife spousal support of $4,000 per month “until death”.

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Over the years, the husband paid the monthly support to the wife as required.   But when he decided to retire at age 72 after running a successful dental practice for almost 50 years, he applied to have his spousal support obligation reduced to $1 per month. As part of that application he pointed to the fact that wife, now aged 73, had never looked for work in all the decades since they split up, and that his income post-retirement would drop to about $65,000 per year, down from about $300,000.

Initially, the motion court judge ruled in the husband’s favour, concluding that the wife’s failure to look for work was the “most significant material change” that justified terminating her support despite the “until death” wording.

The wife successfully appealed, with the Court of Appeal disagreeing that her non-efforts at securing employment constituted a material change.  It reinstated her $4,000-per month support entitlement, noting that the clear wording of their legally-valid agreement indicated that her support would continue until she died.  In any case, the husband was also far too late to complain about the wife’s unemployment now, after condoning it for decades.

Since that Court of Appeal ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada has entertained the husband’s bid for permission to appeal further.  However, that application was rejected; this means that the Court of Appeal ruling – granting the wife $4,000 in monthly support until death – continues to stand.

For the full text of the decisions, see the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling:

Haworth v. Haworth, 2018 ONCA 1055, [2018] O.J. No. 6919

Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada refused:

Haworth v. Haworth, 2019 CanLII 77846 (SCC)

Earlier motion to change:

Haworth v. Haworth, 2018 ONSC 159 (CanLII)

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the founder of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers and is the firm’s senior partner. At Russell Alexander, 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. We have locations in Toronto, Markham, Whitby (Brooklin), Lindsay, and Peterborough.

For more information, visit our website, or you can call us at: 905-655-6335.