Spousal Support and the Marriage Contract

April 4th, 2013 by Meliha Waddell

The marriage contract makes a clear statement that no spousal support will be paid after the divorce. Under what circumstances can the judge enforce the spousal support on the working spouse, if the second spouse is unemployed? We live in Ontario.

There are specific circumstances in which a judge might set aside a marriage contract to order spousal support. They are discussed in more detail in this $20 easy-to-understand book on Ontario Family Law: Devry basics Ontario family edition. It is not a simple answer. You really should consult with a family lawyer about how the law applies to your particular circumstances because a little fact can make a big difference. But, I will give also give a brief summary.

Spousal support can be ordered because a marriage contract has been set aside in these circumstances:

    1.The parties did not understand the marriage contract, meaning they did not each consult with an independent lawyer of their own choosing.
    2.They did not exchange financial disclosure when they signed the contract.
    3.The contract has terms that are not legal (and the terms of the contract are not severable).
    4.There were problems with the negotiations – either one party was under duress, or one party was under pressure (the contract was signed right before the wedding), one party was trying to be “sneaky” with regard to the wording of the terms, there was unequal bargaining power, etc.
    5.The parties did not contemplate the situation that they are in now at the time they signed the contract.

There is a more complete discussion of these considerations in the resources listed above. If your contract was drafted by a good family lawyer, then chances are it has all the terms and wording it needs to guard against being set aside. But you should take it to a family lawyer and have them check the terms, and the situation, and let you know your situation. Spousal support can be worth a LOT of money, so it is best to know your rights and not guess.


One more note… The test for whether a court can order temporary or interim support is different from the test for making a final order for support. It is possible that a judge can order spousal support until the issue of whether spousal support should be ordered at all is determined in full. I realize that sounds a little confusing. It is complicated area of law… another reason to speak to a good family lawyer about your situation. For further information or assistance in regards to marriage contracts or spousal support, please contact one of DSF’s Toronto family lawyers.

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