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Judge makes spousal support ruling based on apparent income

In many marriages, one spouse earns significantly more income than the other. If the amount of that income is in dispute, however, there may be courtroom drama generated when spousal support is being discussed as part of a divorce. This recently occurred during a pre-trial hearing in another province, and the details are pertinent here in Alberta, too.

A wealthy couple chose to end their marriage after more than two decades. The husband was a real estate lawyer who had done well in the market, and the wife was a lawyer who stopped practicing in 1999 in order to stay home and raise the couple's children. They lived in a home in a prestigious neighbourhood (she continues to rent the home from the new owners), enjoyed a vacation house outside the city, and their three boys all attended an elite private school and travelled the continent skiing competitively. In order to maintain that lifestyle, she went to court seeking interim support based on his annual income of, by her account, $1.8 million.

The husband informed the judge that his parents generosity was largely responsible for their ability to live well beyond their means. He claimed he earned $275,000 each year, and had profited from a real estate deal last year that swelled his income on a one-time basis. He asked that support be awarded based on this lower figure.

The judge did not see things as the husband did. What he did see was the man driving a new Mercedes, paying $12,000 per month in rent and reporting expenditures of over $500,000 a year. In his ruling, he pointed out that regardless of where the money was coming from, he was clearly still able to afford a lavish lifestyle and could therefore support his ex-wife in a manner that closely approximated their former life together. She was awarded support in the amount of $9,376 per month based on an assumed annual income of $1.2 million.

Because a judge has some discretion when it comes to awarding spousal support in Alberta, there are no guarantees for either party when they ask the court to settle the matter. It is important to enter into this situation well prepared with supporting documents and other evidence. It may also be helpful to engage the assistance of a committed attorney who understands family law in this province.

Source: nurun.com, "Crying poor fails in Forest Hill", Michele Mandel, Jan. 20, 2017

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