Spousal Support Entitlement and Retirement

St-Jean v Fridgen, 2017 ONSC 7680

Facts

The parties were married for 25 years and had four children together who are now adults. The Wife was a registered nurse, but she stayed at home to care for the children for part of their childhood before recommencing full-time work.  The Husband worked as an elevator installation technician. At the time of their separation, the parties entered into Minutes of Settlement that provided that the Husband would pay spousal support of $1,500 per month to the Wife.  The Minutes of Settlement further held that the Husband must maintain a life insurance policy of $100,000 and maintain the wife as an irrevocable beneficiary.

The Husband retired from his employment at the age of 65 without prior notice to the Wife.  As a result of the Husband’s retirement, his income decreased by one-third (1/3).  Notably, the Wife’s income increased modestly ever year following the signing of the Minutes of Settlement. The parties’ incomes were relatively equal at the time the Motion to Change was brought.

Analysis

Justice Trousdale did a careful analysis of the parties’ incomes at the time the Minutes of Settlement were signed and at the time of the trial.

Ultimately, Justice Trousdale held that it was reasonable for the Husband to retire after forty-one years of work. Furthermore, Justice Trousdale found that the Husband’s income dropped by at least one-third (1/3) as a result of the retirement while the Wife’s income remained roughly the same.  As such, Justice Trousdale held that the Husband met the test of material change.

The Court found that a result of the Husband’s retirement, both parties had approximately the same income. Specifically, the Husband had an income ranging between $76,396.33 – $77,229.91 and the Wife had an income of approximately $78,992.

Justice Trousdale found that the Wife had compensatory and needs based grounds for spousal support. However, the Wife now had a slightly higher annual income than did the Husband following his retirement and the parties were in fairly similar financial positions.

Ultimately, Justice Trousdale held that there should be a variation of the current spousal support order to reflect the material change in the Husband’s income and the parties’ similar standard of living. However, given the length of the marriage, the fact that the Wife was out of the workforce for a period to care for the children, and the fact that the Wife likely suffered economic disadvantage as result of the role she played in the marriage, Justice Trousdale found that the Wife had not been adequately compensated.  As such, Justice Trousdale ordered that the Husband pay $1 per month to the Wife as ongoing spousal support, subject to a material change in circumstance.

Notably, the Husband’s obligation to maintain his wife as an irrevocable beneficiary on his insurance policy remained.

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