Spousal Support & Alimony

Should Wife be Faulted for Not Moving AWAY With Children, Per Husband’s “Disingenuous” Career Advice? 

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

Should Wife be Faulted for Not Moving AWAY With Children, Per Husband’s “Disingenuous” Career Advice? 

A few weeks ago, we wrote an article about a divorce case where the husband and his lawyer had repeatedly made “career suggestions” to the ex-wife, in what the court found was a self-serving bid to reduce his own support obligations to her.  The court refused to fault her for not taking up this advice, especially in light of his history of abusive and controlling behaviour during their relationship.

In another part of the judgment, the court also tackled the husband’s related request, that the wife should acquiesce to another one of his career suggestions:  That she move from Ontario to British Columbia to pursue teaching work there.  (And never mind that this meant their three children would be moving with her, and that the husband would not be seeing them often).  As the court explained the husband’s position:

 After separation, the children lived with [the wife] Ms. Howard.  Often, in these situations, when a former spouse suggests that she move with the children to another municipality for employment purposes, there will be howls of protest from the parent who remains behind and is deprived of contact with his or her children, with ensuing litigation.

This case is the opposite.  In this case, [the husband] Dr. Howard testified that he suggested to the [the wife] that she move to British Columbia with the children in order to obtain a full-time teaching position.  He did this by forwarding a news article dated April 22, 2018, about the need for teachers in B.C. to Ms. Howard through his solicitor.  He said that this would be beneficial to Ms. Howard because she could be near to her sister (who lives in Seattle) and the parties’ daughter … who was attending university at the University of Victoria.  He did not seem to be troubled in the least that this would result in his two younger children living far away from him.

In the husband’s view, if she did not take up his career relocation suggestion and move to B.C., then the court should impute income to her, and thus reduce the support he owed.

The court noted the test for imputing income required an assessment of whether the wife’s decision to forego potential employment in B.C. was reasonable under the circumstances.   The court said:

I do not find it reasonable for Dr. Howard to expect that his former wife pack up her children and herself, sell her home and move more than 3,000 kilometres away so that she can pursue a teaching profession and ease the burden of his spousal support.  That goes beyond the pale for reasonable efforts to become self-sufficient.

Nor had the husband proved that the wife’s earning opportunities in B.C. were as rosy as he claimed.  The court noted it was the husband who bore the legal onus to provide evidence establishing she should have income imputed.  The husband failed to do this.

After repeating that the husband’s motives were self-serving, the court said:

To expect Ms. Howard to accept employment suggestions from an individual that she did not trust is unrealistic at best and disingenuous at worst. 

For the full text of the decision, see:

Howard v. Howard, 2021 ONSC 7784 

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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), Oshawa, Concord, Lindsay, and Peterborough.

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