From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail
Last updated on Wednesday, Sep. 23, 2009 06:50AM EDT
A Cambridge, Ont., doctor has been ordered to pay temporary spousal support of $6,000 a month to her ex-husband despite the fact that he assaulted her in 2007 and was ordered out of Canada.
Mr. Justice Robert Reilly of the Ontario Superior Court said he could not ignore a 2006 amendment in the couple’s marriage contract calling for Baldeep Takhar to pay hefty support payments to her husband, Ranjit Singh Takhar.
“Given her comfortable income, the applicant-wife is able to afford this quantum of support,” Judge Reilly said. “The respondent-husband has put forth a viable claim based on need.”
The legal anomaly is based in the fact that the law protects spouses from losing their right to support payments even if they have engaged in “misconduct” during their marriage.
“It may not be a popular decision, but it’s the correct decision in this case,” said Harold Niman, a Toronto lawyer who represented Mr. Takhar. “What the judge ultimately did was decide that they signed this agreement, and he was going to apply it because she has the ability to pay and my client has shown a valid claim based on need.
“The whole issue of conduct has been seen as irrelevant,” Mr. Niman said in an interview. “But it is a slippery slope. The problem is that, once the court ventures into this whole idea of conduct, what conduct should disentitle a woman from receiving support? What if she’s been sleeping with the trainer or the gardener? Somebody may look at that and say: ‘She’s going to get support? That’s not fair.’ ”
Men rarely obtain spousal support, let alone men who have admitted to assaulting their ex-wives, Mr. Niman noted. “More and more women are earning substantially more money than men, and there is no reason why men shouldn’t be entitled to support,” he said.
The couple married in Britain on Jan. 4, 1995, and emigrated to Canada a year later. Dr. Takhar launched a lucrative practice in cosmetic enhancement, and now makes well over $400,000 a year.
Six months after the 2006 amendment to their marriage contract, Mr. Takhar was arrested for assault and issuing death threats. He later pleaded guilty to assault and was given a suspended sentence and a probation order prohibiting him from communicating with his wife and two children.
While Mr. Takhar – an engineer – claimed to earn $45,000 per year, Dr. Takhar argued that his real-estate income actually elevates his income to the $120,000 range. However, Judge Reilly said that there was not enough evidence to determine the matter.
In his ruling, Judge Reilly noted that a legislative provision allows a judge to reduce support payments if a spouse has exhibited behaviour that, “is so unconscionable [that] it constitutes an obvious and gross repudiation of the relationship.”
However, Judge Reilly said that it will be up to the judge at the Takhars’ divorce trial to determine whether Mr. Takhar breached that threshold.
The judge also noted that Dr. Takhar is free to argue at trial that she signed the contract under duress; lacked proper legal advice; or that the support award is “unconscionable.”
The couple’s two children are 13 and 14. Dr. Takhar has sole custody of them. Judge Reilly added $1,000 per month to Mr. Takhar’s existing $700-a-month support payments based on the new income he is about to receive by way of spousal support payments.