Navigating the intricacies of spousal support, particularly in light of remarriage, can be a complex affair. The British Columbia Court of Appeal illuminated this arena with its landmark ruling in Rozen v. Rozen, 2016 BCCA 303, addressing the pivotal question: does spousal support end when you remarry in BC? The brief answer may be surprising to many. However, the intricate dynamics of each case influence whether spousal support terminates following remarriage or re-partnering. Moreover, this intricate puzzle extends to child support too, eliciting questions like, does remarriage affect child support in BC? or does child support end when you remarry? This comprehensive article explains everything you need to know, offering profound insight into the world of spousal and child support post-remarriage.
In the province of British Columbia, the remarriage of the recipient does not automatically terminate spousal support. Instead, it is one factor among many that courts may consider when determining if a change in spousal support is warranted. This is based on the principles set out in the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act, which guide the court’s discretion. Courts will assess if the recipient’s economic circumstances have changed substantially as a result of remarriage, including the income and resources of the new spouse. Other considerations may include the duration of the initial marriage, the role of each spouse during the marriage, and the financial consequences of the marital breakdown. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand that while remarriage may potentially influence spousal support, it does not automatically end it.
The remarriage of either the payor or the recipient parent also doesn’t automatically alter the obligation to pay child support. Child support is determined based on the Federal Child Support Guidelines, which consider the income of the payor parent and the number of children involved. The principal concern of the court remains the best interest of the child, which often translates to ensuring financial stability. While remarriage might introduce a new source of income into a household, it doesn’t directly impact the biological parent’s responsibility to provide child support. Nonetheless, in certain circumstances, the court might consider the new spouse’s income when determining the payor’s ability to pay child support, especially if household expenses are shared. However, these are generally exceptions, not the rule.
Mr. and Ms. Rozen divorced in 1996 after a long, traditional marriage. Early in their 20-year marriage, their financial circumstances permitted only one of them to continue with university, so they decided that Mr. Rozen would continue with his education. He obtained a Master’s degree in Business Administration and became a high-income earning chartered accountant, achieving a partnership position at KPMG in 1987. Instead of pursuing her education, Ms. Rozen took employment with the federal government. She took time out of the workforce in 1982, 1984 and 1986 when their children were born. She returned to work part-time in 1987, while continuing to assume primary care of the children, including a child with Asperger’s Syndrome.
When their marriage ended, Mr. and Ms. Rozen entered into a settlement which included an agreed amount of spousal support in the amount of $2,350 per month. A 2003 spousal support review resulted in an Order that Mr. Rozen continue to pay spousal support for an indefinite period in the amount of $2,350 per month (reasons indexed as C.R. v. A.R., 2003 BCSC 973).
In 2014, after approximately 18 years of spousal support payments, Mr. Rozen applied to have monthly spousal support of $2,350 terminated on the main grounds of his drop in income from retirement and Ms. Rozen’s re-partnering. By that time, Ms. Rozen had been cohabiting with her new partner at his home, and renting out her home, thereby deriving income. The Chambers judge dismissed Mr. Rozen’s application on the grounds that the support award was compensatory and entitlement was ongoing. Ms. Rozen’s re-partnering had no bearing on the issue of achievement of compensation. The Court of Appeal agreed and dismissed the ex-husband’s appeal.
The Court of Appeal in Rozen provided a helpful overview of the framework for spousal support variation proceedings (at paras. 19 to 23):
When a spousal support recipient forms a new relationship, he or she usually receives economic benefits under that relationship. In light of those benefits, does spousal support end when you re-marry? The Court of Appeal in Rozen answered that question as follows:
 The ultimate question in this case is whether the recipient has continuing entitlement to compensatory support. The extent to which economic benefits conferred and detriments received from marriage or its breakdown have been fully compensated by spousal support to date is the dominant consideration. Re-partnering “generally” does not redress the basis for compensatory support: Morigeau at para. 39. Therefore, the new partner’s means will generally not be relevant in variance applications of compensatory orders.
 However, there is no bright line rule that re-partnering will never be considered on a variation of a compensatory order. It may be relevant for instance, as it is in this case, when the re-partnering enables the recipient spouse to use other assets to generate income.
 These awards and variation orders are very fact-based. They rely to a great extent on the discretion of the judge. It would not be appropriate to eliminate the factual matrix of re-partnering from the consideration of the judge in every case, and as a matter of law.
While Mr. Rozen’s retirement was a material change in circumstances warranting an assessment of whether a variance is necessary, the spousal support order in Rozen was primarily compensation-based. Thus, the singular issue was whether Ms. Rozen’s compensation for the economic disadvantages arising from the breakdown of marriage had been achieved. If it had, then her entitlement to support would end.
Ms. Rozen suffered significant disadvantages as a result of the joint decisions made during their marriage: giving up her opportunity for further education, full-time work, and employment opportunities. Conversely, Mr. Rozen enjoyed significant advantages: the opportunity for further education, to focus his efforts on his career, and to obtain very high income employment. In the Court’s view, full compensation for Ms. Rozen was not achieved since marital breakdown and was likely to remain elusive.
The Court further noted that compensation for Ms. Rozen had not been achieved because the $2,350 she had been receiving over the last 18 years was minimal given Mr. Rozen’s working salary. If the SSAG had been in place when the parties had originally agreed to spousal support, the mid-range figure would have been $7,108 per month. Even using Mr. Rozen’s current post-retirement income, the $2,350 she was receiving was not greater than the mid-range SSAG amount.
In this case, Ms. Rozen’s re-partnering had no bearing on the issue of achievement of compensation. The economic benefits of re-partnering were insignificant in light of the substantial ongoing entitlement to compensation being addressed by the modest level of support being paid.
As we conclude, it’s important to understand that the legal landscape surrounding spousal and child support in British Columbia is intricate, with remarriage adding another layer of complexity. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to whether spousal or child support ends upon remarriage – each case is subject to the specific facts and circumstances at play. The primary concern of the courts, when deciding on such matters, remains the best interest of the children and the parties’ financial equilibrium. Despite the technical nature of these issues, understanding the basic principles can equip you better for the possible changes in your financial obligations or entitlements upon remarriage. Remember, legal advice tailored to your unique situation is always the most reliable course of action. With the right guidance, navigating through the complexities of this field becomes a manageable task.
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