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Gouthro v Gouthro (2024)

2024 ABKB 232 (CanLII) | Gouthro v Gouthro | CanLII

In this case the parties had two arbitration awards following their marriage separation. The February Award granted the wife retroactive and ongoing spousal support based on the husband’s income, while the December Award addressed other issues and gave the husband certain credits. Enforcement and interpretation of these awards is the primary issue. 

In the chamber’s application, the wife sought to enforce the Awards and other legal costs (accumulated via Family Chambers and this application), claiming she is still owed retroactive spousal support pursuant to the arbitration awards. The husband disagreed with the Award’s interpretation and the amount claimed, arguing that the Pension Income portion of the Spousal Support obligation was not retroactive, or if it was, had already been paid. 

Ultimately, the Justice granted the application to enforce the Awards, reasoning that the Arbitration Act mandates arbitration awards’ enforcement unless certain conditions are met, which in this case were not. The court rejected the husband’s interpretations of the awards, finding the wife entitled to retroactive spousal support from the husband’s working and pension income for the period in question, as well as costs for applications.

The Arbitration Act governs the enforcement of the Awards. Section 49 sets out the requirements for the enforcement of arbitration awards. Subsections 49(3) and (4) state that the court shall give a judgment enforcing an award unless: (a) the period for commencing an appeal or an application to set the award aside has not yet elapsed; (b) an appeal, an application to set the award aside or an application for a declaration of invalidity is pending; (c) the award has been set aside or the arbitration is the subject of a declaration of invalidity; or (d) the subject matter of the award is not capable of being the subject of arbitration under Alberta law.

The court dispelled any suggestion that the proper interpretation of the order was governed by the subjective views of the parties and cited that in Onion Lake at paras 64-65, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal stated:

The correct approach to interpreting a court order requires consideration of the circumstances in which it was made, including the pleadings, particularly the relief requested.

In summary, it matters little what a party’s subjective views of an arbitration award are. The court will enforce the arbitration award based on the record, which is the pleadings and the award itself. The award will speak for itself and shall be enforced by the Court Kings Bench. Costs were awarded and served as a deterrent for those not willing to follow the arbitrator’s award and allow enforcement.