Carol Rogerson, a legal scholar and teacher, has played a pivotal role in shaping family law in Canada.
One of her major achievements was helping create the federal Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, (SSAG) which have had a profound impact on public policy. She is the winner of the 2015 Carolyn Tuohy Impact on Public Policy Award from the University of Toronto.
Receiving the award “is just amazing ,” Professor Rogerson said in an interview. “The SSAG are a remarkable and unusual project in so many ways and I am thrilled that they have received public recognition through this award.”
She went on to describe the SSAG project, which she directed along with Professor Rollie Thompson from the Schulich School of Law, as a “collective effort” of a group of academics, government officials, lawyers and judges aimed at creating a tool that would bring more certainty and predictability to a highly discretionary and contentious area of law, thus allowing cases to be resolved much more easily and with greater consistency. The goal of the project was to develop a set of spousal support formulas that would reflect typical patterns in current practice.
One of the things that pleases Professor Rogerson most about the guidelines is that although they are only advisory, and did not involve formal, legislative reform, they have been widely adopted across the country. It shows that change can take place using the existing tools inside the legal process.
Prof. Rogerson’s important and enduring impact on family law in Canada is a tremendous source of pride for the Faculty of Law. The faculty’s Dean, Edward Iacobucci said “On behalf of the Faculty of Law, I congratulate Prof. Rogerson on this well-deserved honour. Her contributions to policy on spousal support have significantly transformed how such support is determined in Canada, with a positive impact on thousands of Canadians each year. We are proud to have her as a colleague.”
This January marked the 10th anniversary of the initial release of the guidelines. They have since been cited in more than 2,000 legal decisions across the country. Prof. Rogerson said she is currently working on a new “User’s Guide” to the SSAG which will be available this spring and which will reflect new developments and issues in the application of the SSAG.
Elissa Lieff, Senior General Counsel with the Family, Children and Youth Section of the federal Department of Justice, said in a letter supporting Prof. Rogerson’s nomination that “with the widespread acceptance of the SSAG, the world of spousal support changed dramatically in Canada.”
John Eekelaar, an Emeritus Fellow at Oxford University, called Prof. Rogerson’s work “truly innovative” and after hearing her speak at a seminar in London in December, 2012, the Law Commission of England proposed developing a similar approach.
Adopting the same methodology as the SSAG, the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers developed a set of informal spousal support guidelines reflecting current practice which have since been the basis for legislative reform in Massachusetts, New York and Colorado.
Prof. Rogerson is also one of the Law Faculty’s most successful teachers. She has published extensively in the areas of child support and spousal support. She is a leading authority and her work has been extensively cited and relied upon by academics, public policy analysts, lawyers and courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada.
Prof. Rogerson is a leader in the classroom and consistently achieves strong teaching scores. She received the 1985 APUS-SAC teaching award and in 2012 was awarded the Faculty of Law’s Alan Mewett Award of Excellence in Teaching by the graduate class.
She has presented her work at many conferences and forums, including in Italy, England, Australia, France and Spain.
The Carolyn Tuohy Impact on Public Policy Award is presented along with several other faculty, staff and student awards under the banner of Awards of Excellence. A list of this year’s recipients and their citations can be viewed on the Awards of Excellence website. This award program annually recognizes the outstanding members of the University of Toronto community who have made rich and meaningful contributions to the University, their communities and to the world.
Alumni Relations within the Division of University Advancement is the steward of the Awards of Excellence program on behalf of the University of Toronto Alumni Association, and co-ordinates the vital contributions of other University stakeholder groups toward this prestigious award program.
Professor Rogerson and the other 2015 Awards of Excellence recipients will be honoured at a ceremony at the Isabel Bader Theatre on April 13.