A Polish couple, Andrzej and Zofia Moge, were separated in 1973 and eventually divorced. Zofia had been a house-wife for the duration of the marriage and experienced many difficulties in finding work once separated. She worked at a hotel as a maid but eventually lost her job. Andrzej paid child and spousal support at the time, but once Zofia lost her job, she applied to have an increase in spousal support. When Zofia found another job, Andrzej submitted an application to have the support cut-off. The trial judge found that the former wife had had time to become financially independent and that her husband had supported her as long as he could be required to do. The Court of Appeal set aside the judgment and ordered spousal support in the amount of $150/month for an indefinite period, which the husband appealed.
- Is the wife entitled to ongoing support for an indefinite period of time?
L'Heureux-Dubé, writing for the majority, said marriage should be thought of as a joint venture, and if economic consequences fall disproportionately on one spouse, spousal support can redress the balance. While spouses would still have an obligation after the marriage breakdown to contribute to their own support in a manner commensurate with their abilities, the ultimate goal is to alleviate the disadvantaged spouse's economic losses as completely as possible, taking into account all the circumstances of the parties, including the advantages conferred on the other spouse during the marriage, i.e. the notion of compensatory support.
She analyzes the four objectives in s. 17(7) of the Divorce Act:
- Economic disadvantage
- Apportionment of financial consequences of care of the children
- Economic hardship resulting from the breakdown of the marriage
- Promotion of self-sufficiency of the parties within a reasonable timeframe following the breakdown of the marriage
- Self-sufficiency is not attained simply by a finding full-time employment at minimum wage; the recipient’s employment and earnings must be at least somewhat related to the marital standard of living and that enjoyed by the payor’s spouse
and concludes that each of them is met in this case.
- Marriage is a joint venture.
- There should be an equitable distribution of the disadvantages or other economic consequences of marriage upon marriage breakdown.
Following this case, spousal support awards generally became more common, more generous, and lasted for longer.