Spousal Support, Law Society of Ontario, Canada
At last year’s Family Law Summit, after reviewing the 2016 appeal cases, I focussed my presentation on two SSAG issues: location in the ranges for amount and duration; and the SSAG exceptions. 2016 was a big year for SSAG cases in the Ontario Court of Appeal, notably the decision in Mason v. Mason, 2016 ONCA 725. Mason joins the three other “must-read” SSAG appeal decisions: Fisher v. Fisher, 2008 ONCA 11; Cassidy v. MacNeil, 2010 ONCA 218; and Gray v. Gray, 2014 ONCA 659.
2016 was also the year of the release of the Revised User’s Guide, an updated user’s guide to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (April 2016). The “official” Guidelines document is still the final version of the SSAG, released by Justice Canada back in July 2008. The R.U.G. should be read with the 2008 SSAG document. The Revised User’s Guide updates the case law to February 2016 and offers lots of practical tips and ideas for the use of the SSAG. It is regularly cited by the courts (over 60 citations across Canada, over 30 in Ontario alone).
In 2016, Mason reminded us all not to default to the mid-point on amount, but to explain location in the range. A number of other 2016 appeals addressed “location”: Wharry v. Wharry, 2016 ONCA 920; Berger v. Berger, 2016 ONCA 884; and Elmgreen v. Elmgreen, 2016 ONCA 849.
If 2016 was “the year of location” in the Court of Appeal for Ontario, what about 2017? No such coherence is to be found, but there were a couple of important appeal decisions and a few baffling ones.
My other theme for 2017 and 2018 is the courts’ continuing struggle over what is or is not a “material change” on variations or motions to change. Here Ontario is not alone, as it has become a cross-Canada problem, and this only a few years after the Supreme Court of Canada restated the law on variation in L.M.P. v. L.S., 2011 SCC 64.
Rollie Thompson, "The Year in Spousal Support: Appeals, Material Changes and More" (Paper delivered at the 12th Annual Family Law Summit, Toronto, 10 April 2018) [unpublished] online: < infolocate.ca > [perma.cc/9XYS-BA96].