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Rancour And Regret Over Spousal Support In A Hot Real Estate Market

In September 2008, Darren Stafford Lamont and Arlene Mae Johnson divorced. The B.C. couple agreed to part ways with him keeping $130,000 in RRSPs and she the matrimonial home. Nothing amiss until the recent spike in home values made Lamont do a serious rethink on the original settlement.

Valued at $700,000 when the couple divorced in 2008, the home shot up to over $1.1 million by September 2015. Apparently figuring that the windfall was reason enough to seek a reduction - if not complete elimination - of his monthly $842 support payments to Johnson, Lamont took the matter to court.

Lamont argued that the increased value of the matrimonial home constituted the kind of material change in circumstances (MCIC) required under the Divorce Act to warrant varying spousal support.

Justice Frits Verhoeven disagreed, explaining that an MCIC involves an event that is unforeseeable by either party at the time of the original settlement. While the exact extent of change in housing values may be completely unpredictable, Justice Verhoeven pointed out: "It is an obvious fact that the value of real estate will likely change over the course of time."

He added further: "The increase of value of the house does not change the present day financial circumstances of the wife in the slightest." He added: "Aside from the house, she has nothing."

Johnson walked away with house and spousal support intact.

It's one more case in the annals, reminding us that we have yet to plumb the depths of divorce issues in the midst of contemporary change and development.

Lessons To Be Learned:

  1. Get legal help to arrive at fair settlement you can live with.
  2. If your ex wins the lottery, you might just have yourself a case. Otherwise, don't rely on housing market gyrations - no matter how wild - to fly in court as a basis for varying support payments already agreed upon in times past.

Call us. Let's talk.

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