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Retirement in Alberta may leave spousal support unaltered

Retiring from the workplace can feel like a precarious leap into the unknown. Part of the cycle of life, it offers the opportunity for great changes, some of which may be less welcome than others. If a new retiree is also divorced and had been paying spousal support while working, he or she should be aware of how Alberta law views the change in financial circumstances which retirement brings.

It's important because a new retiree will likely experience a significant dip in income and make assumptions based on that. When an application to alter a court-ordered support agreement is made, the court will not automatically refer to retirement as its primary deciding factor. Family law lawyers are familiar with what the law describes as a "material change in the means, needs, conditions or other circumstances of either party."

What this means and how it is interpreted varies from province to province. The specifics of each case will be examined by the court, with particular attention paid to support payors who opt for early retirement. The Divorce Act places the onus on the payor to show that "material change" provided sufficient reason to change the initial support order. Perhaps the assistance of an experienced family law firm would be one of the best resources in such cases.

The reasons for retirement, as well as remarriage or assets acquired after the divorce, will all be taken into account, for both ex-spouses. Cases in other provinces exemplify the variety and complexity of how applications for changes in spousal support are decided. An Alberta family law lawyer might help navigate a client through the law's perception of changes in financial status, such as those following retirement.

Source: Financial Post, "If you think retirement will change your spousal support obligations, you might want to think again", Laurie H. Pawlitza Special, Accessed on March 4, 2018

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