Lump sum spousal support awards are a unicorn in family law. They are remarkably rare. However, two recent cases, one from the Ontario Superior Court and one from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta showed us that unicorns do in fact exist.
In Wardlaw v Wardlaw, Justice Le May of the Ontario Superior Court dealt with a case where the parties were married for 17 years and had no children. At Trial, the wife was self-represented and it became difficult for Justice Le May to keep her focused on the relevant and material issues before the court. The wife continued to descend into the fray. The Trial Judge invited the parties to make submissions on whether or not it was appropriate to convert the $540 per month of indefinite spousal support to a lump sum. The Husband was agreeable to move to lump sum support whilst the Wife was more concerned about telling the Court that the trial was “bogus”.
The Trial Justice ended up holding that lump sum support was appropriate because the Wife would likely bring multiple variation applications and the parties financial circumstances were likely to remain the same as the Husband was retired and Wife had already been out of the workforce for a number of years. The Husband had also led evidence that he had the ability to pay lump sum support. As a result the court ordered that the Husband pay $114,000 in lump sum support.
In SJB v RDBB, a case that Leslie Taylor and I argued successfully for the Wife, SJB, Justice D.A. Labrenz of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta ordered lump sum spousal support and lump sum child support. Justice Labrenz noted the rarity of lump sum awards and indicated they are the exception and not the rule. Justice Labrenz went on to provide examples of when lump sum support may be ordered: (a) where a parent has failed to pay in the past and is unlikely to pay in the future; (b) the inability or unwillingness to provide full and complete financial disclosure; (c) disregard and defiance towards previous court orders; and (d) where a parent arranges his/her financial affairs in a manner to avoid paying support.