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Post-separation income increases could affect support

Separating couples often must untangle aspects of a shared life in a way similar to divorce, and this can be stressful and frightening. This is particularly true for a party who was financially dependent on their partner during the relationship.

Under these circumstances, spousal support can be an option. However, this can be a legally complex and confusing matter. For instance, did you know that any post-separation increase in a paying party's income may be shared with the recipient?

The case at hand

This was the very issue in front of the BC Court of Appeal last month. As noted in reports like this one, the case involves a married couple separated in 2003. The husband agreed to pay the wife $1,400 every month in spousal support.

The payments continued until 2016 when the husband requested a termination of his support obligation.

The case didn't exactly go his way, though. During the review, the judge noted that the husband's income had increased dramatically during the separation. The wife requested an increase the amount of support because of this.

The judge ruled that the support agreement would remain in place to reflect the husband's increased income. Though, he did not increase the amount because he determined that neither the wife nor the marriage played a role in his increased income.

Both parties appealed.

Last month, the BC Court of Appeal determined that the wife had, in fact, contributed to the development of her husband's skills that facilitated his income increase. As such, it sent the ruling back to the trial court for recalculation of support. Based on direction from the appeals court, the new order is to be based on the husband's new income, likely increasing his support obligation.

What this can mean for you

This case can be an example of a couple lessons for couples.

First, know that requesting a change in support can come with risks. The courts may not always side with the person requesting a change. Sometimes they can rule the opposite way.

Second, understand that spousal support is a complex issue, and that it can continue to create confusion and disagreements long after a couple parts ways. As such, having the guidance and support of a lawyer when addressing such matters can be critical.

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