Complex Issues Bring Us Back to Basics: The SSAG Year in Review

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Spousal Support, Advisory Guidelines, SSAG, Child Support, Entitlement


In July 2008, the Final Version of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) was released by the federal Department of Justice, after three years of intensive feedback from spouses, lawyers, mediators and judges across the country. The B.C. SSAG cases in the year since the release of the Final Version show the courts struggling with many complex issues of spousal support law: the use of the SSAG on variation and review, the impact of high property awards upon spousal support, competing theories of entitlement, spousal support in shared custody cases, cases involving payor incomes over $350,000, post-separation income increases for payors, the effect of remarriage or repartnering by the recipient, self-sufficiency, time limits. These issues require a sophisticated support analysis and are the focus of this paper.

The first part of the paper reviews "the basics" of the Advisory Guidelines, to ensure that mistakes are not made in typical cases and flags some common errors. We then review the major spousal support decisions of the B.C. Court of Appeal in the past two years, focusing primarily on four of the 17 decisions: Beninger, Chutter, Mann, and Shellito v. Bensimhon. In the next two sections, we analyze in detail the trial decision from the past year, first those under the without child support formula and then those under the with child support formula. In the concluding section, we offer some gratuitous advice, our own "top ten" list, of what to do, and what not to do, in using the Advisory Guidelines in British Columbia in the future.