May 28, 2018

Interim Spousal Support - The 'Stop Gap' Measure

Blackstock v Comeau, 2018 ONSC 193 (CanLII)

While there are many factors to be considered when addressing the issue of spousal support, the courts have repeatedly made clear that the analysis required for interim spousal support is quite distinct from that typically considered at trial.


In Blackstock v. Comeau, Justice Desormeau provides a good refresher of the key principles counsel should to consider prior to bringing any such interim motion.


This article will focus solely on the issue of interim spousal support and will not address issues pertaining to imputed income or interim disbursement of legal fees.


I. Basic Facts

The Applicant, Mr. Blackstone (“Husband”), and the Respondent, Ms. Comeau (“Wife”), began cohabitation in June, 2006, were married on June 7, 2008 and separated September 5, 2011. The length of the relationship was over six years in duration.


One factor that became a focal point for the court in this case was extent of the Wife’s physical and mental aliments which included, but were not limited to: suicide, depression, eating and sleeping disorders, diabetes, P.T.S.D and anxiety.


The wife’s income was $29,995.56 (Financial Statement dated August 17, 2017).


The husband’s estimated income was $62,094.96 (Financial Statement dated September 29, 2017).


II. Issues

Was the Wife was entitled to interim spousal support prior to trial ? If so, how much?


III. Position of the Parties

The Wife sought interim spousal support in the amount of $2,500.00 per month. She argued that her ability to secure employment was severely curtailed due to the extent of her emotional, mental and physical aliments, some of which were incurred as a result of abuse she suffered at the hands of the Husband.


While she received medical Employment Insurance, and CPP, the termination of coverage from Mr. Blackstock’s medical insurance prompted her to seek support given the extent of her expenses.


She further relied upon the fact that the parties had signed a marriage contract which (in her view) envisioned grounds for the imputation of income to Mr. Blackstock should he be under-employed or not making the income he is capable of making.


The Husband opposed the motion and suggested that if spousal support is ordered, it should be no more than $300.00 per month. The Wife’s health issues pre-dated the relationship with some (ie. diabetes) due to her own poor health choices.


Additionally, the Wife had failed to provide submit proof of medical expenses incurred despite having received $145,000.00 in sale proceeds from the matrimonial home and $27,000.00 in a TFSA unlisted in her Financial Statement.


Also, Mr. Blackstock had re-partnered with his new spouse of whom he had a baby daughter. This further reduced the means available for any such award of support to Ms. Comeau.


Regarding the abuse allegations, Mr. Blackstock argued that the abuse was at the hands of both parties.


IV. Decision of the Court

In addition to considering Section 15.2 (2), (4) & (6) of the Divorce Act and Sections 30, 33, 34 of the Family Law Act, Justice Desormeau outlined the following applicable principles at paragraph 13 & 14 when considering temporary spousal support motions:


  1. Interim support is to provide income for dependent spouses from the time the proceedings are instituted until trial
  2. The Court need not conduct a complete inquiry into all aspects and details to determine what extent either party suffered economic advantage or disadvantage as a result of the relationship. That is to be left to the trial judge.
  3. Interim support is a holding order to maintain the accustomed lifestyle if possible pending final disposition as long as the claimant is able to present a triable case for economic disadvantage.
  4. Interim support is to be based on the parties’ means and needs, assuming that a triable case exists. The merits of the case in its entirety must await a final hearing.
  5. On interim support motions, needs and ability take on greater significance.
  6. On interim motions, the need to achieve self-sufficiency is of less importance.
  7. Interim support should be ordered within the range of Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines unless exceptional circumstances dictate otherwise.
  8. Interim support should only be ordered where a prima facie case for entitlement has been set out.


After carefully considering the principles outlined above, the court ultimately awarded the Wife $750.00 per month on an interim, without prejudice basis.


In doing so, Justice Desormeau also expressly recognized the fact that such an interim, temporary support was nothing more than a 'stop-gap' measure designed to address any short term hardship that had arisen from the breakdown of the relationship (para. 74).


V. Final Thoughts

This case is a helpful refresher of the various principles for interim spousal support motions that can assist counsel on how best to approach such motions at court. Understanding what the motion’s judge will be looking for will help guide the focus of your arguments to those areas which require the most attention and save your client time and money in preparation.


Jon is a family lawyer practicing exclusively in all areas of family law with Jaskot Family Law in Burlington, Ontario.


jon@jaskotfamilylaw.ca



Legal Disclaimer

This article is intended for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice nor form a client/solicitor relationship. For more information or require legal assistance, please contact us at www.jaskotfamilylaw.ca for more information.