Gagne v. Gagne — Appellate Guidance on the "Ranges" under the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines
In Gagne v. Gagne, the Court of Appeal set aside the trial judge’s decision and made its own child and spousal support order after finding that the trial judge had failed to determine the support payor’s income. As a result there was no basis in his decision for the amounts ordered.
The Court of Appeal found that the husband had not made “fair disclosure” in the lower court. Nonetheless, the trial record showed that the husband disclosed an average annual income of $230,000.00 over a 5 year period. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge’s finding that the husband failed to disclose income from other sources and imputed an additional $20,000.00 to him, increasing his income to $250,000.00.
The Spousal Support Guidelines (“SSAGs”) produced the following range of monthly spousal support: Low – $3349; Mid – $3968; and High – $4597 (based on the “with child formula”, the length of the parties’ marriage, their ages and incomes). The Court of Appeal ordered the husband to pay the higher range figure because of his failure to make fair disclosure.
Unfortunately, there is nothing in the SSAGs to suggest that the ranges are to be used to penalize a party for financial disclosure that is not fair. The SSAGs state in chapter 4:
The Advisory Guidelines do not generate a fixed figure for either amount or duration, but instead produce a range of outcomes that provide a starting point for negotiation or adjudication.
Ranges create scope for more individualized decision-making, allowing for argument about where a particular case should fall within the range in light of the Divorce Act’s multiple support objectives and factors. Ranges can also accommodate some of the variations in current practice, including local variations in spousal support cultures.
And at Chapter 8:
The ranges allow the parties and their counsel, or a court, to adjust amount and duration to accommodate the specifics of the individual case in light of the support factors and objectives found in the Divorce Act
It would have been nice to see an appellate case where the Court was more instructive on the use of the ranges. Maybe some other time.