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The answer to this question, like so many in law, is “it depends.” And that may be a thoroughly unsatisfactory answer to someone who has worked their whole career and expected that at age 65, they would be done with the rigours of working.

Indefinite spousal support may be ordered after long marriages of more than 20 years or where the recipient’s age plus the length of the relationship equals to or exceeds 65. But, it should be noted, that “indefinite” spousal support does not necessarily mean “permanent” or “forever” spousal support. What it means is that there will be a time in the future when the spousal support will be reassessed and it may be reduced or cancelled. And that time may be retirement.

Retirement is, in fact, one of the most common material changes in circumstances that triggers a reassessment of spousal support. But retirement is different for different people. Some people who start in a union job may retire with a full pension at age 50. Some people will retire from full time work, but continue earning money through part-time work. Oftentimes retirement is a voluntary choice, but sometimes it is mandated due to age. In the recent case of Beninger v. Beninger 2019 BCSC 366, the husband brought an application to end his spousal support obligations due to a voluntary retirement, but the wife wanted support to continue at a reduced rate.

The court had to deal with a two-stage test:

1.) Has there been a material change in circumstances of either former spouse since the order sought to be varied/terminated was made; and

2.) If so, what variation of spousal support is appropriate.

In Beninger, the husband’s spousal support was indeed terminated as the court found that his decision to retire was reasonable given his retirement was when he was 66 years old – a typical retirement age – and his retirement was later than what he had previously anticipated. Significantly, the court found that the objectives of compensatory spousal support had been met if support stopped at age 66.

As each case is different, there is no simple answer as to whether spousal support stops at retirement, but if you are retiring, it is important to raise this issue early. If you require assistance with changing or terminating your spousal support obligations, our family law lawyers would be more than happy to assist you with your legal needs.

Blog article written by Peter Schmidt. If you have any questions or require assistance with a family law matter, get in touch with Peter today.

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