Re-Marriage and Reducing Existing Spousal Support Obligations
Slater v. Slater is a decision of Czutrin, J. of the Ontario Superior Court and highlights some of the issues that arise when a former spouse who is receiving spousal support re-marries.
In the Slater case, the husband and wife entered into a Separation Agreement after 20 years of marriage. The husband agreed to pay the wife “non-variable” spousal support of $10,000.00 per month. The parties agreed that spousal support could only be changed in the event of a “catastrophic” change in circumstances.
The wife remarried. The former husband then applied to terminate or reduce the spousal support.
In the normal circumstance, the extent to which the new husband contributed towards the wife’s expenses would impact on her need for support. The first husband named the second husband as a responding party in his application. He claimed that the second husband had a duty to contribute towards the existing support.
The former husband asked for an order that the new husband, at a minimum, share the obligation to support the wife. He asked that the new husband “indemnify” him for all or part of the spousal support because the new husband had an obligation to support the wife as an incident of marriage.
The court held that the parties’ Separation Agreement governed. The Separation Agreement required a “catastrophic change”. As the wife had been cohabiting when the Agreement was entered into and it was reasonably foreseeable that she might re-marry. Therefore, her re-marriage was not an event that triggered a variation.
The court did not address whether re-marriage in itself relieved the payor in whole or part of his obligation to pay spousal support. Czutrin J. expressed concern about making new spouses parties to applications to terminate spousal support. To do so would certainly dampen if not jeopardize intact relationships, and increase litigation.
We’ll see if the husband appeals.