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No variance in spousal support after rise in marital home value

In our last post we wrote about reasons why someone who is splitting from his or her significant other might receive spousal support. As is the case with some other family law matters—such as child support and child custody—a spousal support order is not set in stone. In certain situations it can be modified to meet the changing needs and circumstances of the parties involved. Whether the circumstances will rise to the standard that necessitates a change will depend on a variety of factors. Recently, a man whose ex-wife resides in Vancouver was not successful in varying his spousal support payments.

When the man and his ex-wife ended their relationship in 2008, she retained possession of the matrimonial home. At that time, the 1,877-square-foot home was appraised at $700,000. In addition, the woman was awarded spousal support. Now, eight years later, the home is worth a reported $1.18 million. The man sought to use the increase in the value of the property as the basis for the variation, arguing the spousal support should be either terminated or, in the alternative, reduced.

The B.C. Supreme Court did not agree with the man’s argument and dismissed his application. In doing so, the justice noted that the change in value of the house did not change any of the following for either spouse:

  • Circumstances
  • Needs
  • Means
  • Conditions

Specifically the justice noted that while the increase in value provided greater equity that the woman could borrow against, because such an action would result in larger mortgage payments, the increased value did not actually improve her financial circumstances.

As this case illustrates receiving a variation to a spousal support order is not a foregone conclusion. Because of this, regardless of the timing of a family law related matter, it is usually a good idea to work with a lawyer who handles such matters.

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