n what is considered the largest spousal support order that has ever been made in Canada, Maple Leaf Foods CEO, Mr. McCain has been ordered to pay his wife $175,000 per month in spousal support on an interim basis after parts of their marriage contract were aside by an Ontario Court. He was also ordered to pay retroactive spousal support going back to July 2011 when the couple separated. How the couple will split Mr. McCain’s estimated $500,000,000 in assets will be determined at a future date. At the heart of the dispute is a marriage contract the couple entered into in 1997 that was imposed on them by Mr. McCain’s father, the co-founder of McCain Foods, who had an estimated worth of $2.3 billion upon his death in 2011. He warned his children, including Mr. McCain, that they would be disinherited if they did not get their spouses to sign marriage contracts. After 16 years of marriage, Mr. McCain asked his wife to sign a marriage contract and warned her that if they didn’t get one, their lifestyle would suffer and they would be given nothing from his father’s sizeable estate. She signed the contract which required her to waive various entitlements including spousal support and equalization of the family’s property upon marriage breakdown in exchange for a lump sum payment of $7 million and title to some properties, including the couple’s matrimonial home.
In the decision, Justice Greer, said that the real question which should be asked is, “How could the wife have possibly refused to sign under those circumstances?” Despite the wife having received legal advice, Justice Greer said that the contract was wholly inadequate in that the wife could not possibly have known what her situation would be like in the future without spousal support.In Justice Greer’s view, the wife signed the contract under duress, although that duress was “subtle and psychological” since she appeared to be the key to Mr. McCain remaining one of his father’s heirs. If she did not sign it, the couple would have faced severe negative financial consequences.Justice Greer held that the bargain was not acceptable considering it was a long-term marriage which went on for another 15 years after the contract was signed.Finally, Justice Greer held that “[a]n agreement, which may have appeared as fair to the Husband when it was signed, can through time become unconscionable. In my view, this is what has happened, and this leaves the Wife with very little. The circumstances regarding its execution, the improvident result for the Wife and the extent of the Husband’s now wealth, are sufficient to have the spousal support provisions of the Contract set aside.”The lawyers for Mr. McCain are seeking leave to appeal the decision.