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If You Quit Work for Health Reasons, Are You Off the Hook for Support?

As many of you already know from our previous articles on spousal support, your obligation to pay support is tied to several important factors – among them your Ex’s need for support, together with your ability to pay it.    Your ability to pay will in turn be tied to your level of income, as well as other factors including your existing financial obligations (such as having to support a new family).

But what happens if you have to quit work?  Do you still have to pay?

This was precisely the question in a recent case called Hesketh v. Brooker When the couple separated after more than 15 years of marriage and divorced five years later, the husband was ordered to pay $2,200 per month in spousal support for an indefinite period.   The wife was 62 years old, and was unemployed.

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However, starting in 2007 the husband developed some health issues, which (among other things) required two heart surgeries.    He claimed that subsequent additional health problems prompted him to retire at age 55, at which point he started to receive his $68,000-per year pension.   In light of those facts, he succeeded on a temporary basis in having a court reduce his support to $1,400 per month, while awaiting the court’s ruling on his application to have his spousal support obligations varied.

The court turned him down, and instead reinstated the original order requiring him to pay $2,200 per month.  In connection with his early retirement, the husband had failed to provide any evidence to establish that it was for a medical reason.  Rather, the court concluded that his retirement had been purely voluntary.   This being the case, it declined to find that there had been a material change in the husband’s circumstances that was sufficient to change the original spousal support order.

Every case is different and the outcomes vary accordingly.   Are you in this situation?  Contact us for a consultation.

Shulman Law Firm is a Toronto-area firm of experienced Family Lawyers who can provide practical advice and effective representation relating to the steps and processes involved in separating and getting divorced in Ontario.   Contact us to set up a consultation.

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