This Month in Family Law – November 2021

December 6, 2021

Ambrose v Ambrose, 2021 NSSC 308
Justice Cindy G. Cormier

Issues: Non-disclosure of income | Imputed income | Child support | Spousal support

The parties separated in 2017. They have two children aged 19 and 16 years old, who live primarily with their mother.

Ms. Ambrose took the position that Mr. Ambrose’s T4 documents that he provided to the Court did not provide a full picture of Mr. Ambrose’s annual income. Mr. Ambrose did not provide the Court with his T1 General tax returns for 2017 through 2020 and did not provide any income information at all for 2020 or 2021. The Court agreed with Ms. Ambrose that Mr. Ambrose’s financial disclosure was not adequate.

Because Mr. Ambrose’s disclosure was inadequate, the Court drew an adverse inference when determining his annual income for his child support obligations. Specifically, the Court imputed his annual income based on his past ability to pay child support of $1,200, on an annual salary of $75,000. Then increased this by 10% to reach an imputed annual income of $82,500. Unless Mr. Ambrose provides the Court with full financial disclosure by April 1, 2022, his imputed annual by an additional 10% each June.

The Court found that Ms. Ambrose is entitled to spousal support on the high end of the spousal support guidelines because of the parties’ 18-year relationship, the role she played in that relationship, because of Mr. Ambrose’s failure to provide full financial disclosure, and the fact that he has been underreporting his income since the parties’ separation. The Court found that without full disclosure from Mr. Ambrose, there is no way to determine a fair amount of spousal support for Ms. Ambrose. The Court granted Ms. Ambrose’s claim for spousal support of $676.00 per month for an indefinite period, and a retroactive award of $13,520.00 paid in a lump sum.

Bray v Watson-Bray, 2021 NSSC 314
Justice Lee Anne MacLeod-Archer

Issues: Division of matrimonial assets | Pension | Spousal support

The parties were married for 27 years and have three children.

The parties agreed that Mr. Bray would retain the family home. Ms. Watson-Bray asked to off-set her interest in the home against Mr. Bray’s interest in her pension. However, Ms. Watson-Bray did not provide the court with valuation information concerning her pension. Because of this, the Court determined that an offset would not be appropriate.

Ms. Watson-Bray earned more income than Mr. Bray. However, Ms. Watson-Bray argued that she should not pay spousal support because Mr. Bray was abusive throughout their marriage. The Court dismissed this argument based on section 15.2(5) of the Divorce Act, which prohibits the court from taking into consideration the misconduct of a spouse in relation to the marriage in making an order for spousal support. The Court canvassed decisions in which exceptions to this section were made, but ultimately found that Ms. Watson-Bray’s circumstances did not fall into those narrow exceptions.

Ms. Watson-Bray was ordered to pay monthly spousal support of $1250.00 to Mr. Bray, and retroactive spousal support in of $21,937.50. The retroactive sum was offset against the amount Mr. Bray owed Ms. Watson-Bray for the equalization payment on the home.

Munroe-Unsworth v Unsworth, 2021 NSSC 319.
Justice Lee Anne MacLeod-Archer

Issues: Costs

The parties have three dependent children aged 8 to 15 years old. At trial in September, Mr. Unsworth was granted primary care.

The Court awarded costs of $13,500 to Mr. Unsworth based on the “rule of thumb”, because he was the more successful party. The hearing took 4.5 days, and Mr. Unsworth conceded the issue of child support, recognizing that that Ms. Munroe-Unsworth would not be able to pay. The record reflected that disclosure issues were discussed at several pre-hearing conferences, but there were still outstanding requests for information at trial. There were also several adjournments and delays attributable to Ms. Munroe-Unsworth.

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