Lifestyles of the (Canadian) Rich and Famous – Divorce Appeal Dismissed
In a past Blog we covered the ongoing divorce litigation between two wealthy and high-profile former spouses, one of whom is a well-known Canadian television personality most recently seen on the shows “Shark Tank” and “Dragon’s Den.”
The couple had been married for 24 years before deciding to split. Their 4-week divorce trial resulted in an order that (among other things) required the husband to pay the wife $125,000 a month in spousal support, with no set termination date. This amount was both compensatory and non-compensatory in nature, and was chosen to reflect a reasonable balancing of the economic consequences of their marriage in light of the ongoing capital positions of each spouse. It expressly involved the judge’s in-depth review of the “conditions, means and other circumstances of the parties.”
In the most recent round of hearing dates, this time for an appeal brought by the husband, the Ontario Court of Appeal declined to set aside or substantially reduce that hefty spousal support order against him.
In describing the background of the case, the Appeal Court described the opulent lifestyle the spouses had enjoyed during their decades together, noting that it formed the backdrop for the significant monthly spousal support that the husband had been ordered to pay. The Court said:
By the time of their separation, the parties had accumulated substantial assets and enjoyed an exceptional income. They lived in a large home in the “Bridle Path” area of Toronto. The property was purchased for $7 million and was sold, after their separation in 2018, for $17.395 million. The parties also owned a $2.6 million recreational property in Florida, a $5 million cottage in Muskoka, and a ski chalet in Caledon. They sent their children to exclusive private schools. They had access to a private jet, through the appellant’s company, which they used for European vacations with their children.
In entertaining the husband’s appeal, the Appeal Court revisited some of the legal issues that had been decided by the judge at trial, but found she had made no errors. The judge had properly considered the specified factors set out in the Divorce Act, and had concluded that the parties worked as a “team” in this long-term marriage. The wife’s contributions from her own career as a full-time optometrist were “critical” to the husband’s financial success, especially in the early years of their marriage. When she left the job force in 2003 to raise their children and manage the household, she lost the ability to contribute to her own support and now – at age 56 – would be unlikely to do so in the future.
The trial judge had also properly examined the spouses’ respective overall capital positions, the Appeal Court found, and made no errors in concluding that the economic disadvantages to the wife, arising from the lengthy marriage and its ending, had already been addressed elsewhere.
Finally, the trial judge was correct in finding the wife was entitled to support indefinitely, and did not err in her approach to quantifying the monthly amount, in view of the husband’s annual income of around $5.9 million, compared to the wife’s annual income of about $679,725.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Plese v. Herjavec, 2020 ONCA 810