Year: 2010

Cassidy v. McNeil is an interesting case from Ontario’s Court of Appeal and deals with the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (“SSAG“). The case also deals with a trial judge’s duty to provide adequate written reasons for his or her decisions.

The trial judge ordered the husband to pay the wife spousal support of $1,200.00 per month for five years.

The lawyers who argued the appeal were not the same as trial counsel. Unfortunately, trial counsel failed to file and mark as exhibits the SSAG calculations used at trial.

The absence of a trial record was compounded by the brevity of the trial judge’s written reasons. The trial judge failed to deal with the issue of entitlement in his reasons, and simply noted that the wife had a need for support.

The Court of Appeal therefore used its own analysis of the SSAG and varied the trial judge’s decision to lower the spousal support to $950.00 per month, but made the order indefinite (given the ages of the parties and the length of the marriage).


Ontario’s Divisional Court upheld a temporary order requiring a husband to pay a wife spousal support of $110,000.00 per month. The spousal support award was reported in the news as the highest award in Canadian history.

The case is Elgner v. Elgner.

The focus of the appeal court is different from the motions court that made the award. In the appellate case, the focus was on whether there was an automatic right to an appeal in light of the provisions of the Divorce Act. The appellate court found there was no automatic right of appeal and that leave to appeal had to be granted.

The appellate court considered the test for granting leave to appeal an ‘interlocutory’ order under section 19 of the Courts of Justice Act: whether there was a conflicting decision in Ontario, or where there was good reason to doubt the correctness of the decision and the matter was of public importance.

The appellate court did not agree that there was a conflicting decision.

As for doubting the correctness of the decision, the appellate court held that temporary spousal support orders should be adjusted at trial rather than re-argued on appeal.


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.


Family law cases have as their hallmark complete financial disclosure. If litigants have enough information, they can settle their disputes.

That principle usually operates in sync with some other fundamental principles, including:

  • Proceedings should be brought on notice;
  • Decisions should be based on evidence.

Simple enough? Apparently not.

In the case of Stuyt v. Stuyt, a wife obtained a court order striking the husband’s Answer (his defense) because she alleged that he defaulted in providing financial disclosure. The problem was that she obtained the order without notice to the husband, without disclosing all the facts to the motions judge, and without filing any evidence (such as a sworn affidavit) to support the relief. Clearly, the motions judge should not have made the order, but it took two years of wasted resources and wasted time (including an undefended trial) before the Court of Appeal corrected the error and sent everything back to the trial judge.

To what extent excessive and aggressive lawyering contributed to the two year court odyssey is unknown. At the end of the two years, the parties’ were no closer to a resolution.

Family law cases, like other disputes, are often shaped because of one party’s missteps and mistakes. One wonders to what extent the wife will wish to continue with her claims, or to what extent she will discount them in order to bring the Stuyt matter to a conclusion.


28 year old California lawyer Wajahat Ali, fought an epic battle for a home loan modification against Wells Fargo and won…Eventually.

His story is a well-written and terrifying look into the financial crisis, the state of America’s megabanks, and how homeowners in need seemingly stand no chance against the towering indifference, incompetence and confusion of those megabanks.

It is also a piece about how the passion and tenacity of a young lawyer (or any lawyer) can make all the difference in the lives of his or her clients — to empower the powerless and not the powerful.

For lawyers, Ali’s epic struggle to save his client’s home is an inspiration.


The legal profession has a long tradition of charity and volunteerism.

I am happy to be a supporter of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Lawyers Feed the Hungry program. I have also volunteered my time at the program; preparing and serving meals, and cleaning up.

The Law Society has operated the program for the past 11 years. Four sit-down meals and three take-away meals are served each week, for a total of 1,600 meals weekly. The program operates out of the Law Society’s Cafeteria at Osgoode Hall in at 130 Queen Street West, Toronto.

It is humbling to serve people in need, and I am honoured to be a supporter of this good work. The program costs about $6,000.00 each week, and although most of the support comes from lawyers and the Law Society, donations are welcome from all (plus, you’ll get a tax receipt).