The need for clear, concise divorce settlement documents

On behalf of Peterson Stark Scott posted in Divorce on July 11, 2019.

There is one crucial clause to insert into a spousal support agreement. If the payor of spousal support in British Columbia doesn’t want to continue paying a former spouse after the spouse dies, the agreement must stipulate that payments cease upon death of the payee. Although inherent in the Divorce Act is the assumption that support ends when the recipient dies, it is still best to get that in writing within the body of the support document.

In most instances when a payee dies, so does the support. But in a 2017 case, a family court judge ruled that the former husband of his now-deceased former wife must continue to pay support to her estate because of the wording of a support agreement between them, which did not stipulate payment would end upon death. The agreement said that support was nonreviewable and could not be varied on any material change of circumstances and apparently, that included death, so the man would have to make all 60 payments to which he agreed.

The judge ruled that nothing in the agreement suggested the man could stop paying if his former wife died. The document stipulated that the agreement was nonreviewable. The judge considered it to be just that and the written document took precedence over an implied rule that support would end upon death.

This case shows the importance of having the advice of an British Columbia lawyer experienced in divorce and the laws that go with it. A lawyer may be able to ensure that clauses contained in important divorce documents are straightforward and clear and leave no room for interpretation. No payor of spousal support wishes to continue to pay after a former partner is deceased.

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