Separating: Chris Rock and Malaak Compton-Rock

TMZ has reported that Chris Rock and Malaak Compton-Rock have decided to separate after nineteen (19) years of marriage. The parties have two children together, namely Lola, born in 2002, and Zahra, born in 2004. Now that the parties have separated, it is important that the parties resolve the outstanding legal issues, namely, custody, access, child support, spousal support and property division.

In Ontario, many family law practitioners would probably agree that entitlement to spousal support is one of the most fluid areas in family law. As opposed to other areas of family law, such as equalization, which are governed by technical rules that are rigidly applied and adhered to, the issue of spousal support is subject to a great deal of judicial discretion.

Before a Court even considers the quantum and duration of support that may be paid, the issue of entitlement to support must be determined. There are four main principles respecting entitlement to spousal support as provided for within the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act, namely, the clean break principle, the personal autonomy and choice principle, the need based principle and the compensatory principle.

After a Court determines whether a spouse may be entitled to support, they then proceed to determine the quantum and duration of such support. It is important to note that in the case of Chris Rock and Malaak Compton-Rock, the parties were married for 19 years. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines provide a specified range of support that should be made by a payor spouse after taking into consideration a number of factors. When determining duration of such support, there are two explicit rules that, if met, may lead a court to order support for an indefinite period of time. The two rules are:

  • 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 length of the marriage/cohabitation and the recipient's age at the date of separation total sixty-five or higher).

As the relationship/marriage between Chris Rock and Malaak Compton-Rock was 19 years in duration and Malaak was 45 at the date of separation, neither of the above-mentioned rules are satisfied. In fact, Malaak falls one year short with respect to both the Rule of 20 and the Rule of 65. As such, if a court determines that Malaak is entitled to spousal support, it is improbable that such support would have an indefinite duration.

However, please note that her entitlement to her share of property may be used against her as an argument that she does not need spousal support.

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