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Spousal Support – Do I Get to Retire?

You’re considering retirement but you have a spousal support obligation that doesn’t automatically end when you retire. Can you retire?  Will your spousal support stop?  In Ontario, determining whether retirement constitutes a material change in circumstances affecting spousal support is a complex matter.

In order to stop or change a support order or agreement a “material change in circumstances” is required unless the support stops with a specified event. Ontario family law requires that a substantial change must occur for the court to reconsider and potentially modify spousal support orders. Retirement is among the factors that may be deemed a material change, but it isn’t necessarily a material change.  A few of the criteria to consider are listed below.

Is this a voluntary or involuntary retirement?  If your retirement is by choice, then a court may scrutinize the reasons and financial implications before deciding on spousal support adjustments. In contrast, with involuntary retirement, such as due to health issues, workplace changes, or mandatory retirement, is more likely to result in a reduction or termination of spousal support.

You also need to consider the effect of a retirement on your ability to make spousal support payments while maintaining your own reasonable lifestyle. It’s also important to know whether your spouse has or had the opportunity to make reasonable financial plans of her or his own.  

It’s also important to consider your age and health as well as that of your former spouse. Courts may consider that retiring at 65 is a normal retirement age, and so is a material change, particularly if you’ve paid support for an extended period of time. The duration of the marriage and support history also play roles in the decision-making process.

Finally, you need to consider whether the court order or separation agreement provided for retirement as being a terminating event or a material change in circumstances.  Sometimes, it’s a terminating event for support or it may be considered a material change in circumstances.

If your order or agreement has a dispute resolution provision, then you’ll need to follow the steps outlined in the order or agreement.  Otherwise, you’ll need to bring a material change motion to the court, along with all the financial disclosure necessary for a judge to determine your support obligations.

Navigating the intersection of retirement and spousal support in Ontario can be complicated. Whether facing retirement or considering spousal support modifications, seeking legal advice and exploring amicable solutions through negotiation or mediation can contribute to a smoother transition for both parties involved.

Written by David Harris-Lowe