Family Law – Spousal Support as Compensation for an Economic Advantage or Disadvantage

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In BC, a Court can award spousal support to provide redress to a recipient spouse for an economic disadvantage arising from the marriage or for conferring an economic advantage on a payor spouse.  This is known as “compensatory support.”

In the recent case of Wilson v. Garbella, 2018 BCSC 864 [“Wilson”], the Court adopted the BC Court of Appeal case Chutter v. Chutter and summarized the principles which inform compensatory support, writing:

[50]      The compensatory basis for relief recognizes that sacrifices made by a recipient spouse in assuming primary childcare and household responsibilities often result in a lower earning potential and fewer future prospects of financial success…

[51]      In addition to acknowledging economic disadvantages suffered by a spouse as a consequence of the marriage or its breakdown, compensatory spousal support may also address economic advantages enjoyed by the other partner as a result of the recipient spouse’s efforts…the doctrine of equitable sharing of the economic consequences of marriage and marriage breakdown underlying compensatory support “seeks to recognize and account for both the economic disadvantages incurred by the spouse who makes such sacrifices and the economic advantages conferred upon the other spouse.”

In Wilson, the Court found that the Claimant experienced disruption of her employment by moving to Halifax while the Respondent trained for submarine service and acted as primary caregiver for the parties’ child for the last five years of the relationship.  In the circumstances, the court found that the claimant suffered a loss of income earning potential by subordinating her needs to those of her family, and, by assuming primary responsibility for the parties’ child, assisted the Respondent in furthering his career.

The Court therefore found the Claimant was entitled to compensatory support of $450.00 a month for four years.

If you would like to book an appointment with any of our family law lawyers, namely Kathleen Sugiyama, Christopher Murphy or Nathan Seaward, please contact Heath Law LLP at 250-753-2202.