Buzz Aldrin - The Black Hole of Spousal Support, Long Term Marriage, and the Rule of 65
The internet was a buzz three years ago when legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin (84) and his wife, Lois Driggs Cannon (mid-to-late 70s), abruptly ended their 23 year marriage in June of 2011. When the divorce was finalized in December 2012, the public was astonished by the astronomical settlement Lois received. According to TMZ, she moon-walked away with nearly half of Buzz's fortune, half of the profits from his businesses, patents and stocks, and amount of spousal support – $9,500 a month and 30% of his future annual income which was estimated to be more than $600,000.
Earlier this week, gossip phasers were set to stun when news broke that
Lois recently spent nearly $1 mil on a piece of heaven for herself - a
luxury condo in Los Angeles. People were scandalized; many believe Buzz
got shafted while Lois is enjoying her life among the stars on his money.
Would Lois have received a similarly Jupiter-sized settlement in Ontario? Most likely, if the planets aligned properly in her situation.
Under Ontario's property division regime laid out in the Family Law Act, married spouses must share equally in the value of all assets acquired during marriage. This means that Lois has a right to half the value of Buzz's business, patents, and stocks that were developed while they were married. Additionally, Lois appears to have been a major shareholder in the astronaut's image management company, StarBuzz, which she developed and ran with minimal assistance from her husband. Buzz cannot alienate her interest in the company. If Lois was not a majority shareholder, she would very likely have a beneficial interest under a constructive trust claim for her significant contributions establishing and maintaining the success of Buzz's brand. She could be entitled to a 50% interest in the business' equity.
With regards to spousal support, an Ontario court would have discretion when determining the monthly amount Lois receives because Buzz's annual income appears to be in the range of $600,000 or above. According to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, the calculation formula does not automatically apply when the payor's gross income exceeds $350,000. Whether the formula applies depends on the circumstances of each individual case. With the lack of information available regarding Lois' income and circumstances, we cannot be certain whether the $9,500 amount is entirely out of this world.
Spousal support orders under the Divorce Act are, among other enumerated objectives, intended to address economic disadvantages a spouse may face as a result of the marriage or its breakdown. The amount and duration of these support orders are carefully calculated to help a spouse get back on their feet and become self-sufficient within a reasonable period of time.
It appears that Lois' primary role in the marriage was developing StarBuzz, which provided the family a significant source of income from managing Buzz's public appearances and promotional activities. Since it seems Lois may no longer be working for the company, she has lost her pre-divorce source of income. At nearly 80 years old, a court is unlikely to expect Lois to secure a new career as people at her age generally have fewer employment opportunities. Thus, she may not be able to obtain the same standard of living she enjoyed during the 23 year marriage without support.
Finally, Buzz might have to support Lois to infinity and beyond - her circumstances meet the 20 year marriage and 'rule of 65' exceptions for support period limitations under the Guidelines. If a support order is given where the marriage lasted 20+ years, it will likely not have a specified end date. The same occurs where the marriage lasted 5+ years and the number of years when added to the age of the recipient is equal to 65 or more. As Lois married sometime in her 50s and divorced 23 years later, it is possible that she will receive spousal support until her final journey to the stars.