NHL Trades and Family Law

This past Wednesday was the NHL trade deadline; and while the trades made will certainly have an impact on rankings they may also have a more unexpected impact - namely, on the players' family law obligations.

How could family law possibly be impacted by the NHL trade, you ask?

Simply put, if a player is traded, he and his family may need to move, thus changing the jurisdiction where the child and the family are habitually resident. Moreover, the jurisdiction where the family habitually reside is the jurisdiction in which the matter must be commenced and decided.

As such, if a professional hockey player and his spouse separate after a trade, the jurisdiction where the family reside will decide matters such as property division and support.

How does this impact on NHL trades?

Well, spousal and child support are different depending on the jurisdiction determining the amount. In Canada, spousal support is determined by the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) and is generally higher than in many US states. In addition, Federal Child Support Guidelines govern child support and it is higher in Canada than in many US states.

On March 4, 2014, Roberto Luongo was traded by the Vancouver Canucks to the Florida Panthers. As a result, Luongo and his wife may be moving and making the state of Florida their new permanent residence. Now, while we are sure that the couple is very happy, in the event of a separation, Luongo will most likely have a lower support obligation than if he had remained resident in Vancouver, where the SSAG and Federal Child Support Guidelines apply.

We wonder, however, whether potential spousal and child support liability would have an impact on professional hockey players coming to play for a Canadian team like the Toronto Maple Leafs. Professional hockey players must consider more than just the team they want to play for - they must consider how their property and support may be impacted by a divorce in a different jurisdiction if their marriage is on the rocks.

In the end, the fact that spousal and child support is generally higher in Canada could be detrimental to our Leafs. Professional hockey players attempting to avoid high levels of support will certainly favour teams such as the Dallas Stars (as Texas caps spousal support at three years). Yeehaw!

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