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Post-Separation Depression a Legitimate Excuse for a Spouse’s Unemployment

by Daniel Gloade on January 11, 2016

Two court decisions dealt with this issue.

The first case is Trucido v. Trucido, 2015 ONSC 665.  You can read it here.

In this case, the parties separated in April 2012.  The Wife (recipient) was in desperate need of financial assistance.  The Husband (payor) earned $78 000.00 in 2013.  In July 2014 he stopped working.  He claimed that he suffered from depression.  Specifically, he suffered from headaches, panic/anxiety attacks and an inability to concentrate.

The Husband received a diagnosis of severe depression from a psychiatrist.  The psychiatrist reported that the recovery date is unknown.

The psychiatrist prescribed medications.  The Husband takes the medications but he complains that it causes drowsiness, headaches, diarrhea, and dry throat. He has no appetite and has a fear of becoming incontinent.  The Husband continues to see a psychiatrist twice per month.

The Husband’s current income was his Long-term disability benefits which total about $41 000.00 per year.

Justice Thomas A. Bielby

I am satisfied, on the undisputed medical evidence presented and the fact that the respondent has qualified for long term disability benefits that the respondent has mental and physical health issues and is currently unable to work. I am not convinced, however, that he can never return to work.

He allowed the Husband’s ongoing spousal support obligation to be based on the actual income of $41 000.00 per year but added that the Husband must inform the Wife when he returns to work and his new income within 10 days of return to work.

The Husband had an expert report from a psychiatrist about diagnosis and his ability to return to work?  He got this evidence when he applied for long-term disability benefits.  What happens if you don’t have expert evidence?

The second decision Friesen Stowe v. Stowe, 2015 ONSC 554.  You can read it here.

The central issue in the Stowe case was spousal support.  The Husband (payor) was a pharmacist and the Wife (recipient) was unemployed at the time of separation.  She had prior success, however, as a bank officer was she was once offered a job paying $70 000.00.

After separation, the Wife returned to school to get a Masters Degree in Linguistics.  She completed the coursework but she did not complete the internship requirements.  The Wife transferred degrees and went to teacher’s college.  She felt that she could complete both her Masters Degree in Linguistics and teacher’s college concurrently.  The workload was too much, however, and she stopped working on her Linguistics Program.   In 2014 she was informed that she was dropped from the Linguistics Program because she did not complete her apprenticeship in time.

The Wife said that she did not complete her Linguistics Degree because she could not deal with the stress of an internship and the court proceeding at the same time.  She also said that she suffered from depression although she had no medical evidence to support her claim.

Mr. Justice Martin James held as follows:

The respondent has provided an explanation of the factors that she says prevented her from completing her studies in the years following separation. I have difficulty with the respondent’s decision not to even try to revive her career in financial services but ultimately the respondent is entitled to considerable flexibility and time to adjust to her new situation. The cases establish that this process occurs gradually for many former spouses following the breakdown of a long term marriage. I am not prepared to reject the respondent’s evidence and explanations as improbable or lacking in credibility. I have not concluded, unlike Corbett J. in Moon, that the respondent has no intention of obtaining employment.

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