When parties are going through a divorce, they must either settle on particular issues or have a court determine how to resolve matters. Depending on the circumstances, one of the parties may be entitled to spousal support. Once entitlement is determined, it can be a complicated matter to determine what a fair amount of spousal support would be and what the duration should be. In many cases, spousal support may be paid periodically, such as monthly. In other situations, it may be appropriate for a spouse to receive a lump sum amount of spousal support.
This post will discuss when lump sum spousal support may be ordered. We will also discuss the role of non-disclosure when determining the amount and duration of spousal support. In particular, we will discuss a case example, Turanich v. Noyen, 2019 ABQB 596, in which the husband concealed and dissipated many family assets. The court in the Turanich case determined that the husband should pay lump sum spousal support in the amount of $260,000.
This post will provide key takeaways for parties to family law proceedings in which spousal support and non-disclosure are issues.
First, there needs to be a determination on whether a spouse is entitled to spousal support. There are two forms of entitlement to spousal support. A spouse can be entitled to compensatory or non-compensatory spousal support or a combination of both.
Compensatory spousal support is available for spouses who contributed to the marriage in such a way that the marriage breakdown would be detrimental. For example, if the spouse had given up their career to take care of the children while the other spouse continued on with their career, they would be disadvantaged by the marriage breakdown, as they did not have the same opportunities to further their career during the marriage. They may need to re-enter the workforce, which would require additional training or qualifications if they have not been in the workforce for a long period of time. Another example would be if a spouse had to forgo certain opportunities to advance their career if they had to move to a new location for the other spouse to further their career. The spouse who missed certain opportunities must be compensated with spousal support.
Another form of entitlement to spousal support is non-compensatory. This form of entitlement is on a needs basis. For example, spouses are typically financially dependent on each other during the marriage. One spouse may be particularly reliant on the other if they had to give up on some career opportunities to maintain the household, so the court recognizes that they would not be able to support themselves independently right away. The court will also take the marital standard of living into account. This means that even if a spouse is not destitute, non-compensatory spousal support may still be available if their standard of living has dropped significantly below the standard they enjoyed during the marriage.
Generally, spousal support is paid periodically, such as monthly, or on another basis if the parties agree. Lump sum awards of spousal support are exceptional and only available in cases where periodic support is not reasonable or unlikely to be enforced.
Some situations where lump sum spousal support may be appropriate would be if the payor spouse has not previously paid spousal support. In deciding whether or not to order lump sum spousal support, a court can also consider whether the payor may dissipate capital, which would take away their ability to pay periodic spousal support. In other cases, the spouse may require a lump sum to obtain qualifications to retrain to enter the workforce. The court can also assess the level of ill will between the parties, which may suggest that a lump sum amount is more appropriate to give the parties a clean break from each other. Another factor that can be relevant is the payor’s lack of disclosure.
The lack of disclosure is a significant issue in many family law cases. One of the parties may exhibit a pattern of non-disclosure or non-compliance with disclosure orders.
According to section 15.2(4) of the Divorce Act, the court must consider each spouse’s condition, means, needs, and other circumstances when making a spousal support order. To determine a spouse’s means, the court can consider their capital assets. If a spouse claims they do not have the means to pay spousal support, their lack of disclosure will make it difficult for them to convince the court that this is true. The court takes non-disclosure very seriously, and a party’s credibility may be questioned if they refuse to comply with disclosure requests and orders.
In the Turanich case, the court ordered the non-disclosing party to pay a lump sum of spousal support in the amount of $260,000.
In this case, the payor’s spouse had a history of non-disclosure, including ignoring various court orders requiring further disclosure. He concealed many of his assets, including property interests, with his sons.
The court found that lump sum spousal support was more appropriate than periodic payments, given the payor’s refusal to provide full disclosure. The court also found that there was ill will between the parties, which would make it difficult for the wife to enforce her entitlement to spousal support.
Although the payor claimed he did not have the means to pay such a significant amount of lump sum spousal support, the court found that he held capital assets that would provide him the means to pay spousal support. In particular, lump sum spousal support was ordered to be secured against the payor’s residence, any interest he held in his sons’s residences, and any property the wife may discover later on if not disclosed. Due to his lack of disclosure and refusal to comply with disclosure orders, the court determined that the payor was not a credible witness and did not accept his claims that he could not pay lump sum spousal support.
Parties to a family law proceeding must make full and accurate ongoing disclosure. There can be significant and costly consequences for failing to comply with disclosure obligations, so it is important to understand them from the outset. If you are seeking outstanding financial disclosure or require assistance with your disclosure obligations, you should speak with one of our family law lawyers at Mincher Koeman, who are experienced in assisting business professionals and entrepreneurs with disclosure issues in family law proceedings. Our Calgary family law lawyers are dedicated to finding the best resolution for you after your divorce.
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