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Something you may often hear about in legal circles is limitation periods, which simply put, are the time limits required to bring an action in court. While many things related to family law that people may wish to settle in court are subject to limitation periods, spousal support is not. But that’s not to say that waiting an extended period of time before claiming spousal support will have no impact on what a court decides. A decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice provides us with a good example of how courts might analyze such a situation.

A long marriage comes to an end

The parties began to live together sometime around December 1981. They were married five years later in 1986. They had two children while married, both of whom were adults at the time of the trial. The exact date of their separation was not agreed upon, with it having occurred either in 2004 or 2005.

Both the mother and father worked during their marriage, and during their original divorce proceedings, they claimed that there were no issues related to financial support that had to be settled, with both parties saying they were not entitled to spousal support.

Arriving in court six years later

Six years after their separation the parties found themselves back in court. The father had become sick with cancer and had sold his home. The mother, who had incurred debts of around $60,000, largely associated with the costs of raising their children, was looking for a share of the proceeds from the home after it was sold. The father responded by seeking spousal support. He claimed that he had not had an income above $10,000 per year for a number of years, largely due to his cancer. He claimed the mother had a side-business in addition to her government job, which brought in an annual income of around $60,000.

Determining spousal support after such a long time

The parties both acknowledged that there was no entitlement to support at the time of their separation. The court explained that the difficulty, in this case, arose because of unexpected life events that occurred many years later.

The court looked at common law cases where spousal support was claimed after many years. It considered a number of factors in making its decision. Ultimately, the court considered the duration of the relationship (they were together for 23 years), the delay in claiming spousal support, and the financial situation of the parties. In this case, the court determined,

“Based on all of the circumstances of this case that the period of six years after the date of separation was not an unreasonable time frame within which the parties could reasonably expect a spousal support claim to be made in the event of need on the part of either of them and does not raise concerns as to the Respondent’s actual need.  The Respondent’s cancer diagnosis came in 2007, and it is clear that his income has been declining since at least 2006.  The delay from 2007 until 2010 appears on the available evidence to have been attributable to the fact that the parties were, quite simply, mutually working their affairs out.  The spousal support claim was only raised by the Respondent in November 2010, after the Applicant issued and served her Application seeking, among other claims, a 50% interest in the matrimonial home, child support and equalization of net family properties.”

However, the court’s decision did not end there. The court also considered the mother’s financial situation, noting that she had incurred significant debt, and had monthly expenses that exceeded her monthly income by nearly $2,000. Many of these expenses were related to having raised the children.

As a result of this, the court dismissed the father’s claim for spousal support.

Contact the spousal support lawyers at Gelman & Associates if you are going through a separation or divorce in Ontario. Serving six offices throughout Aurora, Barrie, Downtown Toronto, Mississauga, North York, and Scarborough, our offices are easily accessible by transit and off-highway. In order to be accessible to clients and prospective clients, our phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 8 PM. Call us at (844) 769-0737 or 1-844-769-0737 or contact us online for an initial consultation.