Ex-wife tries to increase her spousal support due to mental health issues

The court of appeal agreed with the trial court that an increase in spousal support wasn’t warranted.
The court of appeal agreed with the trial court that an increase in spousal support wasn’t warranted. (Photo: iStock)

Does a mental health issue that developed as a result of a marriage breakdown entitle an ex-spouse to more spousal support?

Possibly, but the courts didn’t grant it in the following case.

The husband and wife were married for nearly twenty years, when their marriage broke down sometime in 2004 or 2005. After an incident in which the wife was assaulted by the husband in 2005, they filed for divorce.

The divorce took a long time to settle and while it was ongoing, the wife had to take extended sick leaves from work in 2007 to 2009, because she claimed her mental health was suffering due to the assault and ongoing divorce action.

In the meantime, the husband was ordered to pay her $2,000 of spousal support per month which was later increased to $2,256.

In 2013, she reduced her work hours and went from a full-time employee to part-time due to her mental health issues. She also asked for increased spousal support as her income went from $79,000 to $64,400, while her husband’s income was $324,000. She claimed that her husband, a lawyer, was much better off financially than her.

The trial court ruled that she was not entitled to an increase in spousal support.

The court made the finding for two reasons. First, the court found that there was no significant career change from the date of separation to the present to warrant an increase in spousal support.

The second reason related to the wife’s mental illness. Despite having gone to a physician and being diagnosed with stress and anxiety, the court said that this was not enough proof to support the wife’s claim that she was forced to reduce her work hours due to mental health issues stemming from the divorce. The wife appealed.

The court of appeal agreed with the trial court that an increase in spousal support wasn’t warranted. It was also noted that spousal support differs from child support when it comes to changes in income. When the income of a paying parent increases, that usually warrants an increase in child support but that is not necessarily the case when it comes to spousal support.

The appeal court dismissed the appeal.

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