In the case of Wright v. Wright, the wife ended her marriage of 27 years with husband after becoming emotionally involved with an employee of the company for which both parties were shareholders. The parties attempted to resolve the issues arising from their separation through the collaborative family law process.
Throughout the collaborative process, the husband continued to pay the wife a salary in the amount of $350.00 per week although the wife ceased to hold a position with the companies after their separation. In 2004, when the collaborative process proved unsuccessful, the husband stopped paying the wife’s salary. Despite their separation, the husband had to carry on business, which required him to buy out the wife’s shares.
In 2004, the parties informally agreed that the husband was to pay the wife $213, 475.00 in consideration for her shares of the company by means of monthly payments in the amount of $2,647 for a total of 8 years. Although not a formally executed agreement, both parties took steps to implement the bargain. Shortly thereafter, the wife requested changes to the draft agreement, including an increase in spousal support, which the husband rejected.
Ultimately, the husband initiated proceedings for divorce, equalization and an order requiring the wife to transfer her shares in the companies to him. At trial, the trial judge took into consideration the fact that the husband made payments, on an interim basis, on account of share value or spousal support. As such, the trial judge granted the divorce and ordered that the payments of $2,647.87 already made by husband be deducted from the amount that the husband owed for the wife’s shares. Spousal support in the amount of $800 per month was awarded to the wife. Additionally, as a part of his ruling, the trial judge ordered that the husband be awarded costs on substantial indemnity basis.
The husband appealed the trial decision while the wife pursued a cross-appeal. Both appeals were ultimately dismissed. Two important issues were addressed during the course of the appeal.
Firstly, as per the suggested Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, the husband’s income gave rise to spousal support obligations ranging from $1250 – $1600 per month. Nonetheless, the trial judge ordered $800 per month to be paid indefinitely for spousal support. The wife’s spousal support entitlement was reduced well below range on account of equalization payments made by the husband out of business income.
Secondly, despite the informality of the agreement between the parties, the trial judge found it equitable to uphold the 2004 agreement between the two. It was established through a combination of correspondence and their subsequent actions that the parties had executed the terms of the informal agreement. Since the parties took steps to implement parts of the agreement, those parts were upheld as a formal agreement and the court did not allow for either party to unilaterally repudiate the contract once it had been partly performed.
In all, the trial judge found that the wife was unnecessarily prolonging proceedings by making outrageous claims for spousal support and refusing to execute the agreement in the absence of these claims being satisfied. The trial judge held that the matter would have settled much earlier had the wife not sought to obtain much more than what had been agreed to between the parties in 2004 and accordingly awarded costs to the husband for the unnecessary litigation brought on by the unreasonableness of the wife.