Estate & Family Law Blog

Lifestyle before and after divorce may dictate spousal support


When a marriage ends, the law is set up to make sure that any spouse who does not earn enough on his or her own to be self-supporting is provided a means for living. The amount depends on many factors, including the lifestyle to which said spouse had been accustomed. A recent divorce case in an eastern province provides valuable insight for any couple arguing over spousal support, either here in British Columbia or elsewhere in the country.

The couple in question had been living an affluent life in a posh urban neighbourhood. The husband, a real estate lawyer, made good money from his involvement with several residential real estate companies, while the wife is a lawyer who gave up her practice in 1999 to raise their children. The couple owned a vacation home, and all three of their sons attend an elite private school and ski competitively. In order to maintain her style of living, she requested support payments based on his income, which she submits as being $1.8 million per year.

The husband, however, paints a very different picture of his financial situation. An earnings statement for Oct. 2016 shows no income at all, and he claims that he and his wife have long been supported by his parents, who have also been paying the boys’ tuition. He further reports that he earned a large amount of money from the sale of a property, hence the inflated estimate of his annual earnings. The real amount, he alleges, is about $275,000 a year.

The judge pointed out that despite the husband’s claims to a more modest income, he was still driving a new Mercedes, paying $12,000 per month in rent, and racking up annual expenditures in excess of half a million dollars. Since he was clearly able to maintain his own wealthy ways, the judge ruled he should therefore be able to do the same for his wife, regardless of where the money was coming from. She was awarded interim support of $9,316 per month.

Although British Columbia law allows for a certain amount of discretion in awarding spousal support, judges generally follow preset guidelines and will seek to make an equitable decision. A divorce can be a complicated affair, but it is helpful to be well prepared. Part of that preparation might include finding a skilled family law attorney to advocate on one’s behalf.

Source: Toronto Sun, “Crying poor doesn’t work for Forest Hill lawyer in divorce court“, Michele Mandel, Jan. 19, 2017

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