Following Fisher: Ontario Spousal Support Trends 2008-09

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Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, Spousal Support, Fisher v. Fisher, Ontario, British Columbia, Family Law, Time Limits


In January 2008, the Ontario Court of Appeal handed down its landmark decision in Fisher v. Fisher. For a short while, there was a period of adjustment, not only to Fisher's endorsement of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, but also to its imposition of a time limit after a 19-year marriage. The early response to Fisher was canvassed by Carol Rogerson and me in "Fisher and After: The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines in Ontario" (May 28,2008), prepared for last year's 2nd Family Law Summit.

Those early cases revealed "a disturbing trend for courts to impose time limits, purportedly following Fisher, in cases where there are still dependent children in the care of the recipient of spousal support", we said in "Fisher and After". But Ontario courts have gotten over that initial over-reaction to Fisher, and time limits are now being used more carefully.

Fisher has also encouraged much more frequent use of the Advisory Guidelines in a wider range of spousal support cases, so that the Ontario case law has become richer and more varied, much more like the British Columbia case law. In Fisher, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that, if one of the parties argues the Advisory Guidelines, then the trial judge should include "reasons explaining why the Guidelines do not provide an appropriate result", if the judge produces a result outside the Guidelines ranges. Invariably, one of the two parties will like the Guidelines ranges for amount and duration, ensuring that the Advisory Guidelines will be addressed in most spousal support decisions.