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Overseas divorce can undermine bid for spousal help

Adam Black: The query of which nation’s legal guidelines govern the break up can have vital penalties

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Households right now are more and more cell, usually pushed by a work-from-anywhere mindset. However when a pair that has ties to multiple nation decides to separate, the query of which nation’s legal guidelines govern the break up can have vital penalties.

For a partner in Ontario, the jurisdictional controversy arising from separation is especially acute when a divorce is granted outdoors of Canada. Merely put, the granting of a overseas divorce will extinguish the power of a separated partner in Ontario to acquire spousal help below the legal guidelines of Canada and Ontario.

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This subject was not too long ago earlier than the Courtroom of Attraction for Ontario in two unrelated instances, selections for which had been launched in February.

Within the first case, the couple was married in 2012 in Russia, the place they resided on the time. The couple and their youngster moved to Ontario in March 2018 and have resided right here ever since. Simply days after shifting out of the household house in November 2019, the husband utilized for a divorce in Russia.

Although the spouse objected that the divorce needs to be decided in Ontario, arguing that she wouldn’t be eligible to obtain spousal help from her husband below the legal guidelines of Russia, the Russian courtroom granted the divorce in January 2020.

In July of that 12 months, the spouse commenced courtroom proceedings in Ontario looking for spousal help. All through the Ontario courtroom continuing, it was understood that if the Russian divorce order was acknowledged in Canada, the spouse could be unable to pursue spousal help in Ontario.

The spouse argued the husband sought and obtained the Russian divorce for the precise goal of avoiding his obligation to pay spousal help. In different phrases, the husband engaged in forum-shopping, the follow of selecting a courtroom location that can lead to a extra beneficial consequence.

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At trial, Justice Jana Steele of the Ontario Superior Courtroom of Justice agreed with the spouse and located the Russian divorce shouldn’t be acknowledged in Ontario. The decide famous that “the Russian divorce, which was obtained lower than two months after separation, offers (the husband) a back-door with which to flee his authorized tasks, and runs counter to the 4 spousal help aims set out in s. 15.2(6) of the Divorce Act.”

The husband appealed. In a ruling launched Feb. 28, Justice Jonathon George of the Courtroom of Attraction for Ontario additionally agreed with the spouse and dismissed the husband’s enchantment. In accordance with the decide, whereas “forum-shopping is not going to at all times violate our rules of morality, ‘unfair forum-shopping ways’ most definitely will.”

In reaching his conclusion, Justice George pointed to the robust emphasis positioned on the values of partnership and equality in Canadian household regulation. It’s these values which underpin a partner’s entitlement to spousal help in Ontario.

In the end, the Russian divorce order was not acknowledged in Ontario and the spouse was in a position to pursue spousal help.

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The second case earlier than the Courtroom of Attraction reached the alternative consequence.

In that case, the couple was married in 1998 in Bangladesh, the place they resided with their three kids for a lot of the marriage. In 2015, the husband and kids obtained landed immigrant standing and moved to Canada the next 12 months. The spouse remained in Bangladesh.

Though the husband had sponsored the spouse for Canadian everlasting resident standing, he later gave her written discover of his intention to divorce her pursuant to the legal guidelines of Bangladesh. The spouse moved to Canada in February 2017, one month earlier than the Bangladeshi divorce turned efficient.

Three years later, the spouse commenced courtroom proceedings in Ontario whereby she sought a divorce and different aid, together with that the husband pay spousal help.

The central subject within the Ontario courtroom proceedings, once more, was the popularity of the overseas divorce. Whereas the spouse mentioned the Bangladeshi divorce shouldn’t be acknowledged in Ontario, the truth that she had remarried in reliance on the Bangladeshi divorce weighed in favour of recognizing the overseas divorce in Ontario. Within the end result, the Bangladeshi divorce was acknowledged in Ontario.

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Writing for the Courtroom of Attraction for Ontario, Justice Julie Thorburn famous that the spousal help provisions in Ontario’s Household Regulation Act don’t “embrace the phrase ‘former partner’ when describing who might apply for help.” The decide continues: “Ontario instances have due to this fact interpreted the Household Regulation Act as not allowing a former partner, equivalent to (the spouse), to hunt spousal help.”

Justice Thorburn famous that “except and till the wording within the Household Regulation Act is modified to outline ‘partner’ to explicitly embrace a former partner, or this line of instances is revisited, a celebration equivalent to (the spouse), to a overseas divorce, can’t search spousal help below the Household Regulation Act.”

The decide concluded her evaluation by acknowledging that the laws, in its present type, “may lead to vital hardship” for individuals who could also be entitled to spousal help in Ontario however for a divorce having been granted outdoors of Canada. Justice Thorburn identified that laws in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island ensures a declare for spousal help will survive a overseas divorce.

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For Justice Thorburn, the treatment is easy: “Addition of the phrases ‘or former partner’ to s. 30 of the Household Regulation Act to make sure that spouses who divorce in overseas jurisdictions can deliver purposes for help in Ontario is a matter that, for my part, might be addressed by the Ontario legislature.”

Really helpful from Editorial

For Ontario {couples} with connections to outdoors nations, the instances are a reminder to fastidiously perceive their rights, entitlements and obligations, each earlier than deciding to relocate and when separating or looking for a divorce.

Adam N. Black is a associate within the household regulation group at Torkin Manes LLP in Toronto.


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