Spousal Support

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What is spousal support?

Spousal support is money paid by one former spouse or partner to the other.  It may be paid for different reasons, but is often paid to alleviate economic hardship that may be experienced by the lower income earning spouse upon the breakdown of the marriage.

Who can get spousal support?

There are many different factors that a court will consider before determining whether a spouse should receive spousal support.  These include:

  • The length of time you were married;
  • Any economic advantages or disadvantages to each spouse which arose from the marriage;
  • Whether one spouse remained at home to care for children or the household, while the other went to work and advanced their career;
  • Whether one spouse is unable to maintain the lifestyle he or she became accustomed to during the marriage;
  • The physical or mental disability of each spouse;
  • The age of the spouses;
  • Whether each spouse will gain economic self-sufficiency within a reasonable time;
  • Whether there is a separation agreement or a marriage contract;

How much money is spousal support?

In Canada, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAGs) can help you determine how much support you might get if you are entitled to it, and for how long.  However, the SSAGs are not law, that is the courts may use the SSAGs as a helpful tool, but they are not required to.  You should speak to a lawyer to help you understand how much spousal support you may be entitled to.

Can I get spousal support if I wasn’t married?

Maybe.  In Ontario, you have to be living with your spouse for at least three years before you can make an application for spousal support.

Who determines whether or not I can get spousal support?

You can negotiate an agreement with your spouse. Depending on where you live, there may be services that can help with this issue.  If you are able to reach an agreement you can include the terms in a separation agreement.  However, if you are unable to reach an agreement then you would need to ask the court to decide this issue.

What are the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines?

The SSAGs were developed in an effort to make spousal support payments more predictable and consistent.  The SSAGs suggest appropriate ranges of support rather than a specific number.  The specific number is to be negotiated or determined by the court.

The SSAGs do not indicate whether a spouse is entitled to support because entitlement to support depends on the circumstances surrounding the spouses. Although the SSAGs are not law, judges often base their decisions about spousal support on them.

There are two formulas included in the SSAGs to help determine which range is applicable.  One formula is used when there are dependent children and one is used when there are no dependent children.  The reason for the two formulas is to take into account any child support that is being paid.

When do I stop paying spousal support?

The answer depends on your situation.

If you have a separation agreement and you and your spouse agree to an end date, then that date can be incorporated in the separation agreement.

If spousal support was ordered by the courts then the order may include an end date or state that the spousal support is to be reviewed if there is a material change in circumstances.  Some orders are worded in such a way that the support can only be stopped or changed under specific circumstances.