Retirement & Support Payments

Retirement & Support Payments

Topic: Family Law January 10, 2018 by Jim Jeffcott

Retirement may be a lifestyle change, but isn’t always a “material change” to allow support payments to be reduced!

I expect that many would presume that retirement would result in a support payor being able to reduce or terminate his/her support payments from the level of payment that was required while the person was working.  However, one should not make that presumption.

This was confirmed by an Ottawa court recently.  The case, Hanniman v. Hanniman, 2017 CarswellOnt 20029, addressed the issue of whether a payor spouse who was able to retire with a full pension at the age of 56 after 35 years of service could rely on his retirement to justify a termination of his support obligations to his former spouse.  The parties had entered into a Separation Agreement prior to Mr. Hanniman’s retirement which required him to pay support to his wife without any pre-determined termination date. The parties had resided together for 21 years and had children from their relationship.  The Court did not permit the termination, and Mr. Hanniman’s request for a variation was dismissed.  It was determined that Mr. Hanniman was capable of working and that his obligation would not end merely because he was permitted by his employer to retire.  The Court found that the decision to retire was voluntary.  Ms. Hanniman was able to demonstrate that she was still in need of support as a result of the marriage breakdown and the Court found that the husband was capable of paying support at the pre-retirement level.

If a person is contemplating retirement and he/she has an ongoing support obligation to a spouse or a former spouse, it is recommended that they consult with counsel before making any decisions in that regard.  I have recently found myself addressing that issue for clients on both sides of the argument – the retiring payor and the support recipient.

Members of our Family Law Group would be pleased to assist with this issue and any other issues related to separation and divorce.  Please contact us at LMR if you require assistance.