Last week, I gave a brief introduction to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG), which is one of several tools for quantifying spousal support that exist in the arsenal of spouses, their lawyers, mediators, and judges. But it must be emphasized that the use of the SSAG has its limits, and it has its exceptions.
In an Ontario Court of Appeal decision called Fisher v. Fisher, the wife appealed a trial judge’s spousal support order on the basis (among other things) that the judge had failed to apply the SSAG when calculating the proper amount and duration of support payable.
In allowing the wife’s appeal on several grounds, the court clarified the intent and proper use of the SSAG by courts, and made the following points:
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- The SSAG are simply a “useful tool”, designed to reduce the expense involved in litigating spousal support, by promoting resolution for the average case.
- However, in Ontario they remain non-mandatory.
- Moreover, the SSAG do not apply in many situations. Most notably, they expressly do not apply at all in situations where spouses earn more than $350,000 or less than $20,000. They also apply only to initial orders, and not to variation of an order.
- They also do not apply where there is already an agreement between spouses in relation to support.
- The SSAG suggest only a range of both amount and duration of spousal support. If the award suggested by the SSAG conflicts with other authorities (such as precedent case law), then those authorities will prevail.
- In all cases, the reasonableness of a spousal support award that is generated by applying the SSAG must be balanced with regard to the circumstances of the individual case, including the particular financial history of the spouses during the marriage, and their likely circumstances in the future.
The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are merely a good starting-point for determining a fair and reasonable support award. However, they are never the only factor to be considered. We can help guide you through the support calculation process, and give you tailored advice that is geared toward your particular circumstances. Call us for a consultation.
Shulman Law Firm is a Toronto-area firm of experienced Family Lawyers who can provide tailored, practical advice and effective representation in connection with separation and divorce, child custody and support, cohabitation and separation agreements, family mediation, and all other areas of Ontario Family Law. Contact us to set up a free consultation.