The BC Court of Appeal just released a decision called Domirti v. Domirti, 2010 BCCA 472, which considered an appeal by the husband from an Order that he pay indefinite spousal support to his wife. The basis on which the husband made his appeal was the manner in which the judge treated the application at the Supreme Court level; that is, that the judge made a mistake in treating his application as a variance instead of a review. The Court of Appeal agreed with him and reversed the judge’s order.
Previously, the parties have been separated since 1994. The initial child and spousal support order was made in 1996, and varied in 2004. The 2004 Order specified that, anytime after a year had passed, either party could seek a review hearing on the issue of spousal maintenance. The husband sought that review in 2005, and then again in 2009 when it was alleged the youngest child of the parties was no longer a child of the marriage. The husband sought to terminate spousal support at that point.
At the 2009 application the judge indicated she was relying on Section 17 of the Divorce Act, which relates to the variation of support orders. She concluded the husband ought to keep paying indefinite support to the wife in the amount of $1250.00 per month.
On appeal, the Court of Appeal noted that Section 17 of the Divorce Act is irrelevant in the context of review hearings and should not have been relied on by the judge. Instead, at a review hearing, the judge should have conducted a “reconsideration” of entitlement and quantum of support having an eye to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, which the Court of Appeal concluded would have assisted the husband in terms of the duration of support.
This decision clarifies the test that a party must satisfy when bringing an application for a review of support as opposed to the test that must be met on an application to vary support. Procedurally, this distinction is important to note as the legal test is markedly different.