This case concerned the criteria for awarding spousal support.
LEAF intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada.
Zofia Moge and Andrzej Moge married in the mid-1950’s, separated in 1973, and divorced in 1980. During their marriage, Zofia cared for their house and three children and also worked in the evenings as a cleaner. After separating from her husband, Zofia took custody of their children, continued to work evenings as a cleaner, and received $150 per month in spousal support from Andrzej. Zofia was laid off in 1987, and her spousal support was varied to $400 per month.
Zofia later secured part-time work and intermittent cleaning work, and, in 1989, Andrzej applied for and received an order ending spousal support. The trial judge found that Zofia had had sufficient time to become financially independent, and that Andrzej had supported her for long enough. The Manitoba Court of Appeal reinstated the initial $150 per month in spousal support for an indefinite period. Andrzej appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
LEAF argued that marital support issues were part of gender inequality and sexual discrimination. Separation and divorce were strongly associated with the economic disadvantage of women relative to men. Despite changes in the workforce, the prevalence of traditional gender roles resulted in women doing more work than men but for less money. As such, women remain more financially disadvantaged by marriage breakdown than men. Spousal support can be understood as a means to ensuring women’s equality, and must be consistent with the constitutional right to protection and benefit of the law enshrined in the Charter.
LEAF also argued that self-sufficiency was not the only or even the most important criteria in spousal support. Spousal support assessments should consider the events and actual roles played by the spouses during the marriage.
A majority of the Supreme Court held that spousal support obligations should be determined using the principles contained in the 1985 Divorce Act. As a result, self-sufficiency was only one of the factors to consider. Making self-sufficiency the primary factor would be inconsistent with social realities, including the impact of divorce on the feminization of poverty. Courts needed to take into account a wide variety of factors and decisions made during a marriage which benefited one spouse and disadvantaged the other at the time of divorce.
LEAF is grateful to Helena Orten and Alison Diduck, counsel in this case.
Download the factum here.
Read the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision here.
Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].