Friday, January 18, 2008

Ontario Court of Appeal Endorses Spousal Support Guidelines

The Ontario Court of Appeal’s judgment in Fisher v. Fisher, released last week, has important implications for family law in Ontario.

Of immediate interest is the Court's endorsement of the Spousal Support Guidelines, which have had mixed influence with Ontario family courts to date.

In Fisher, the Court of Appeal found that the trial judge erred in not taking the Guidelines into account when they had been argued to the Court:

In my view, when counsel fully address the Guidelines in argument, and a trial judge decides to award a quantum of support outside the suggested range, appellate review will be assisted by the inclusion of reasons explaining why the Guidelines do not provide an appropriate result. This is no different than a trial court distinguishing a significant authority relied upon by a party.

Though the judgment also notes the limited applicability of the Guidelines to certain factual scenarios, and expressly states that if Guidelines are in conflict with a relevant authority, the “authority is to prevail”, the Court ultimately incorporated the ranges provided by the Guidelines into its determination of both the quantum and duration of support.

The Court's complete Reasons for Judgment in Fisher v. Fisher, can be found here.

UPDATE: January 22, 2008 - Also see Spousal guidelines accepted as ‘litmus test of reasonableness’ from Lawyers Weekly.

- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto

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