Q: My ex-husband signed a Consent Order, agreeing to pay me X amount of dollars in support, and also agreed to the amount of arrears he owed and to a repayment plan. This was just prior to our divorce and based on a separation agreement.
My problem is that he has since moved from Canada, (where the marriage and divorce occurred) to a state in the United States that does not recognize “spousal support” as enforceable. My question is, do I have other options open to me to try and enforce the Consent Order? I am in my 60s and in poor health and could use this money desperately. (I should mention that the Federal government has done everything in its power to try and get this money, including revoking his Canadian passport)
A: Support and consent orders are only as enforceable as the integrity of the jurisdiction under which the payor lives. Unfortunately for you, this move was not anticipated at the time of your divorce and no contingency plan was put in place to protect you.
If the payor moves to a jurisdiction that doesn’t enforce another jurisdiction’s court orders there is nothing you can do. That’s why when determining a settlement, I often suggest a future value calculation and lump sum settlement.
There are certain tax advantages to doing this. Sometimes it’s best to give up a little to be certain that you will actually end up with something in the end. Until recently, the courts and lawyers were hesitant to do this. But there is now case law that supports this type of settlement.
You mention in your letter that you are in your 60s. I would suggest you look to CPP to see if your pension credits have been split (you would have been entitled to equalization of these). This is something that you do not need the consent of your ex-spouse to access. I would also look into any possible claim for disability through your CPP. At age 65 your OAS will kick in, and if your income is low enough you will also be entitled to the GIS supplement.
Debbie Hartzman is a certified divorce financial analyst in Kingston, Ont.
- Does divorce after a long separation make sense?
- What’s considered grounds for divorce in Canada?
- Do I need to pay tax on a divorce settlement?
- Keeping more assets in divorce