Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines: The Revised User's Guide

1 Introduction

This Revised User’s Guide (which we sometimes call the “RUG”) updates and replaces the two previous versions: the original User’s Guide released in July 2008 with the Final Version of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG); and the New and Improved User’s Guide which we produced in March 2010. The previous versions of the User’s Guide have frequently been cited by the courts in their decisions, and by lawyers in their arguments about the Advisory Guidelines. This version provides us with an opportunity to update the past five years of SSAG case law, as well as to address some practical issues which have emerged since 2010.

The SSAG have now been in use for more than ten years, starting with the Draft Proposal in January 2005 and then the Final Version of 2008. Since the SSAGs are well-known and consistently used across the country, judges and lawyers are more often digging deeper into difficult and unexplored issues. Further, there is much more cross-fertilization amongst provinces and territories today than there was in the early days of the SSAG.

The Revised User’s Guide is not intended to provide a comprehensive survey of the case law. That would be impossible, since there are now over 230 appeal court decisions and over 2,900 trial decisions that cite the SSAG. We have focused on leading appellate and trial decisions in the Guide. We hope to provide a starting point for research, but the Guide is not a substitute for the more thorough research that needs to be done by lawyers and judges for individual cases.

Like the two previous versions, the Revised User’s Guide is intended to provide practical assistance in the application and use of the SSAG: flagging common errors, offering suggestions for more effective use, noting useful decisions and recent trends, and identifying emerging issues. More and more often, the issues raised by lawyers and judges involve the interaction between the SSAG and the broader principles of the law of spousal support. As we revised the User’s Guide, we found ourselves wrestling with some of the hardest questions in spousal support law. We hope this version of the User’s Guide will assist others to work through individual cases, whether typical or atypical.

Ultimately, the source to which we must all return is the original document, the Final Version of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, published in July 2008. We have cross-referenced sections of that document throughout this Guide, cited as the “SSAG”. The Revised User’s Guide should be read together with the SSAG, which can be found online in two places:

Also to be found at the latter site is the collection of our various writings and reports on the Advisory Guidelines.

In conclusion, we would like to thank two former and two present members of the federal Department of Justice’s Family Policy Unit. Both Wendy Bryans and Lise Lafrenière-Henrie were instrumental in bringing the Advisory Guidelines from a general idea to their actual implementation across the country. In the preparation of this Revised User’s Guide, we have been greatly assisted by their successors, Marie-Josée Poirier and Claire Farid. We would also like to acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Supporting Families Fund of the Department of Justice Canada.