Good Morning America: Divorcing After 15 Years

People has reported that Good Morning America's Lara Spencer and her husband, David Haffenreffer, are divorcing after fifteen (15) years of marriage. According to People, the parties are divorcing amicably as their children remain their priority. As the parties are divorcing amicably, one may presume that they will negotiate a Separation Agreement which addresses the legal issues arising out of the breakdown of their marriage. Custody, access, child support, the division of property and spousal support are some of the issues that may be addressed within the parties' Separation Agreement.

In Ontario, the issue of spousal support is one of the most fluid areas in family law. That is, the area of family law which addresses spousal support is subject to a tremendous amount of judicial discretion. Before a Court considers the quantum and duration of support that may be paid by one spouse to another, entitlement to support must be positively determined. The following four main principles respecting entitlement to spousal support, which are enshrined within the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act, are considered by a Court:

  1. The clean break principle;
  2. The personal autonomy and choice principle;
  3. The needs based principle; and
  4. The compensatory principle.

If a Court deems that a spouse is entitled to spousal support, the Court will continue its analysis as to what the quantum and duration of such support ought to be. The Court will consider the following factors in such an analysis:

  1. The means of the payor;
  2. The need of the spouse receiving the support;
  3. The length of the marriage; and
  4. The function performed by each spouse during the marriage.

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines provide a specified range of support that should be made by a payor after taking into consideration the above-mentioned factors. Further, when determining the duration of such support, a Court will determine if the relationship met either of the following two rules:

  • Rule of 20 (i.e. if the parties have been married for twenty years or more); and
  • Rule of 65 (i.e. whether the sum of the length of the marriage/cohabitation and the recipient's age at the date of separation total 65 or more)

In the event that either of the above two thresholds are met, a Court may order support for an indefinite period of time.

When considering the marriage between Lara Spencer and David Haffenreffer, we must first consider whether either spouse is entitled to support. A further examination of the parties' financial circumstances and their roles throughout the marriage is necessary in order to determine whether either may be entitled to such support. If a Court were to deem that one of the parties is entitled to spousal support, the quantum and duration will need to be determined. As David Haffenreffer is 47 years of age and Lara Spencer is 45 years of age, neither party presumably meets the Rule of 20 or Rule of 65, unless the parties cohabited with one another prior to marriage for longer than three years, if David is to be the recipient of such support, or five years, if Lara is to be the recipient of such support.