High Income Short Marriage Spousal Support

The recent of case of Ahmad v. Khalid, 2016 ONSC 5595 deals with spousal support payable by a high income earner in the context of a short marriage.

In this case, the parties were married in a religious ceremony on February 22, 2013 and a civil ceremony on November 22, 2013. A child was born on January 9, 2015. On February 14, 2015, initiated divorce proceedings in the local US jurisdiction. Wife returned to her parents’ residence in Brampton, Ontario, shortly thereafter. Husband earned the equivalent of $324,640.00 CDN as a US doctor while wife had no income at the time of separation. Wife started a master’s degree program in health administration when she was three months pregnant and completed her first term.

One of the questions before Justice Emery was whether the wife was entitled to receive spousal support and, if so, in what amount.

Justice Emery determined that wife was clearly entitled on a compensatory basis. Although it was a short marriage and wife was living comfortably in her parents’ home, she did put her education and career on hold to move to the USA and have a child with husband. The Court was also persuaded by the fact that wife was the primary caregiver of the child. Spousal support was awarded at the low range of $7,500.00 month on an interim basis.

In reaching conclusions on entitlement and quantum, Justice Emery commented on husband’s ability to pay, noting his high income and significant expenses. One such expense was monthly mortgage payment in the amount of $3,673.00 on a home purchased after separation. Justice Emery stated this expense could not assist in limiting his spousal support obligation towards wife because the house is an investment that will either generate income of appreciate in value. The message, it seems, is that hiding behind high expenses will not help limit spousal support obligations and a payor who engages such a tactic does so at their own peril.

Jeffrey L. Hartman

A Very Unusual Case

Leach v. Leach, 2016 ONSC 6140 is an extraordinarily unusual family law decision because it features husband moving to remove wife’s lawyer as counsel of record.

Wife had been represented by Ms. Anderson for some five years. The case is notionally about spousal support: husband’s income fluctuated as a result of employment changes and spousal support had to be sorted out. I say “notionally” because the case boiled over when wife shifted from being a part time employee to full time employee at her lawyer’s firm. Husband took great exception to wife’s employment and demanded Ms. Anderson recuse herself on account of conflict of interest. Ms. Anderson refused and husband brought a motion.

Counsel for both husband and wife obviously retained outside counsel to prepare and argue the motion. The material was voluminous at eight affidavits, three continuing record volumes, and four facta. The motion was adjourned a number of times and, when it occurred, took a full day. One can only imagine how much the motion cost all told; likely well north of $15,000.00.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are no analogous cases. The Court therefore outlined the general principles dealing with removal of counsel:

  1. It is an objective rather than subjective standard; the actual perceptions of the litigant are irrelevant. The question is whether a reasonably informed member of the public would perceive there to be a conflict of interest or ethical breach arising if the lawyer continued acting for a client who is also an employee.


  1. Courts exercise great restraint in interfering in a litigant’s counsel choice and will interfere only in the clearest of cases.


  1. The Court must be guided by the following policy considerations:
  •  The necessity of maintaining the high standards of the legal profession and integrity of the justice system; and
  • Courts must ensure that a litigant is not deprived of their choice in lawyer without good cause.

Applying these principles, the Court distinguished the employer-employee relationship from circumstances where the solicitor-client relationship is intimate or familial. Those cases clearly give rise to a conflict of interest in which counsel loses objectivity. The employer-employee relationship does not necessarily and husband failed to establish otherwise here.

What is most spectacular about Leach is not the reasoning. It is the simple fact that the case was ever litigated in the first place. Ms. Anderson understandably dug her heels in at the accusation of a conflict. In fairness to husband, however, Ms. Anderson’s retainer certainly is of some concern. It is a bizarre relationship and there is no shortage of family lawyers in Ontario.

Leach exposes a very expensive and dangerous truth about family law: clients, and indeed lawyers, get entrenched in positions and cannot advocate either effectively or as effectively as possible in the circumstances. How the two lawyers in this case are supposed to work together now in any constructive manner is beyond me. It seems reasonably likely that every issue, no matter how minor, will be litigated from this point forward unless and until one or the other counsel changes. It is reasonable to suppose that the parties might be best served at this point by both retaining new counsel.

Overall, a very unusual case.

Jeffrey L. Hartman

Do I have to pay child support during a block of parenting time?

Under Ontario family law, is child support payable for the time period in which the payor parent has a block of access time with the child? This was the question before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Nicholson v. Nicholson, 2016 ONSC 5573.

In this case, the payor exercised a block of time with the child pursuant to an agreed upon schedule. The payor then brought a motion claiming that child support is not properly payable for the period of time in which the child was in their care. The court disagreed, stating:

The support being paid by the respondent is for the benefit of the [child]. The respondent’s time with [the child] during the summer was the agreed upon summer parenting time schedule. This on its own, in my opinion, does not vitiate the obligation to pay child support for [the child] during the time the respondent had [the child].

The result is not surprising but perhaps it is avoidable by way of separation agreement. Consult a Toronto family lawyer to discuss child support and separation agreements.

Jeffrey L. Hartman

The Status Quo in Ontario Family Law

When a custody dispute arises under Ontario family law, the child’s status quo becomes an important consideration for the family court. All judicial decisions affecting a child are determined by the best interest of the child. One factor in ascertaining the child’s best interest is the status quo. Parties to a family law dispute must therefore carefully contemplate not only the child’s best interest but also their strategic bargaining position when entering a temporary agreement or consent order changing the child’s residence.

Sometimes parents unilaterally change the status quo, as the mother did in Cosentino v. Consentino, 2016 ONSC 5621 (CanLII). Here, mother entered a custody and access agreement with father and then unilaterally decided to move the child from Hamilton to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Not surprisingly, father brought a motion in the Superior Court of Justice for various relief including sorting out the access and custody arrangement now that mother changed the status quo.

The family court took quite a dim view of mother’s actions. Justice Pazaratz opened his judgment with a warning: “Parents should think twice about trying to move a child to another city in the middle of a custody dispute. In any contest between ‘best interests of the child’ and ‘fait accompli’- best interests will always prevail”. Mother was ordered to transport the child to and from school and access with father, both in Hamilton, from her residence in Niagara-on-the-Lake as required by the circumstances. This was a temporary order and the parties were required to return to court to canvass the child’s best interest more fully.

Justice Pazaratz’s message is clear: the status quo matters and often has a long lasting effect. It is therefore important for parents involved in custody and access disputes under Ontario family law to contact a Toronto family lawyer before making such an important decision.

Jeffrey L. Hartman 

Tis the Season – Motions to Change a Child’s School

A new school year is around the corner. For Ontario family lawyers, this means disputes over where a child will attend school are brewing .

The chief objective in these cases is to determine which school will go furthest in promoting the child’s best interests.  Hamid v. Hamid, 2010 ONSC 2013 (CanLII) confirms the current analytical approach to evaluating various schools.

The Superior Court in Hamid starts with Asklan v. Taleb, [2012] ONSC 4746, which outlines seven focal points for consideration, including:

1)      Assessment of any impact on the stability of the child;

2)      Consideration of how many years the child has attended his or her current school;

3)      Whether there is any prospect of one of the parties moving in the near future;

4)      Where the child was born and raised;

5)      Whether a move will mean new child care providers or other unsettling features;

6)      Decisions that were made by the parents prior to the separation or at the time of

separation with respect to schooling;

7)      Any problems with the present school.

This is a non-exhaustive list. Factors such as proximity to the parents’ residences and convenience to the parents are not relevant, per Wilson v. Wilson, [2015] ONSC 479, as the analysis focuses on the child’s best interests, not the parents’. To that end, the overarching consideration is what school will give the child the best competitive advantage, go furthest in promoting their confidence and motivation, and facilitate important relationships the best. See Schloegel v. McCroary, [2012] BCSC 1606 for further information.

Jeffrey L. Hartman



Legal Framework for Supervision Orders in BC

In British Columbia, access with a child can subject to supervision when unsupervised parenting time is contrary to the child’s best interest. Access can be supervised by a trusted third party including family, friends, social workers, and so on.

This article outlines the legal framework governing orders for supervised access.

According to F.K. v. M.K., 2010 BCSC 563, supervision orders aim to:

  • Protect children from risk of harm;
  • Continue or promote parent-child relationships;
  • Encourage or compel parents to undergo counselling or treatment to deal with parenting issues;
  • Create a bridge between no relationship and a normal parenting relationship; and
  • Avoid or reduce family conflict that impacts upon the children.

In V.S.J. v. L.J.G., [2004] O.T.C. 460 (S.C.J.), the Court stated that when terminating or restricting access, it is essential to weigh and balance the factors affecting the child’s best interest, including:

  • The maximum contact principle;
  • The right of a child to know and have a relationship with each parent;
  • A limitation of a consideration of parental conduct to that conduct which impacts on the child;
  • The risk of harm including emotional, physical and sexual harm;
  • The nature of the relationship between the parents and its impact on the child;
  • The nature of the relationship and attachment between the parent and the child; and
  • The commitment of the parent to the child.

The Court in F.K. also advised that evidence of exceptional circumstances is usually required to obtain a supervision order because it is one step away from complete termination of the parent child relationship.

The above cases were decided under the Family Relations Act which has been replaced by the Family Law Act. However, as noted in Q.B. v. W.I.M., 2014 BCSC 219, the same principles continue to apply under the new law.

For a recent decision applying these principles, please see J.J.T. v. J.A.S., 2015 BCSC 628.

Jeffrey L. Hartman

Thinking of Barring Review of Child Support?

Cantlon v. Folk-Klein, 2016 BCSC 868 is an interesting decision because it discusses, among other things, barring review of a child support obligation until a future date.

The parties obtained a previous order which barred review of the payor’s child support obligation until 2019, despite any material change in circumstance. In 2016, the payor brought an application to vary child support and the payee relied on the provision barring review.

On application, the provision was found to improperly impede the court’s ability to assess the children’s best interests, which seems like the right result. The bar also seems manifestly unfair to the payor and one wonders why it was ordered in the first place.

The take away point is, if you are thinking about barring a review despite a material change, think twice.

Jeffrey L. Hartman