Spousal support, which is also commonly referred to as alimony or maintenance, is money paid to an ex-spouse after a divorce or separation. In most cases, this occurs when one partner is the sole earner in the relationship or earns significantly more income than the other. The idea being that the partner earning less income entered the marriage or union under the pretense that they would be financially supported by their spouse.
What types of spousal support are available to you?
There are three distinct types of spousal support in Canada: compensatory support, non-compensatory support, and contractual support.
This type of spousal support is designed to compensate the spouse for his or her financial investment into the relationship, or for any losses that occurred during the relationship.
Compensatory support is common in divorces involving couples with children. In many instances, one parent sacrificed a career or income to stay at home for the kids. This is seen as a “loss,” as the parent chooses to forgo a career on the assumption that their spouse will provide financial support for the family.
Compensatory support reimburses the spouse for this financial sacrifice, since the marriage did not work out.
Non-Compensatory support is awarded to a party on a “needs basis.” Generally, this type of support is given when the receiving spouse is ill or disabled.
If an agreement for spousal support was made prior to your marriage in a prenuptial agreement (a “prenup”, as it’s often called), you or your spouse will pay contractual support. The amount of support is predetermined in the prenuptial, and generally cannot be negotiated or changed.
How is spousal support decided?
Many factors play into exactly how much and how often you or your spouse will pay, all of which is determined by a divorce court.
The amount owed is based primarily on income, but many other factors play a role.
The Federal Divorce Act at s.15.2 (6) states that there are four objectives of spousal support orders:
- Recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the marriage or its breakdown;
- Apportion between the spouses any financial consequences arising from the care of any child of the marriage over and above any obligation for the support of any child of the marriage;
- Relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the marriage; and
- In so far as practicable, promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time.
Length of Cohabitation
The amount of spousal support owed relies heavily on the length of cohabitation (how long you and your spouse lived together).
The longer the length of cohabitation and the greater the disparity between each party’s incomes, the larger an award of spousal support will be and the longer the duration will be.
Future financial prospects of the parties
Similarly to how disparities in income are a factor, the disparities in future financial prospects can affect spousal support.
If you have a very lucrative business, higher education, or a job with upward mobility, to name
a few examples, you may not be able to receive as much support as someone who works hourly or part time, for example.
Time Separated While Still Married
If you and your spouse were separated for a prolonged period of time, this may have an effect on spousal support.
Who is entitled to spousal support?
You’re eligible to ask for spousal support if:
- you were married,
- you lived together in a marriage-like relationship (a common-law relationship) for at least two years, or
- you lived in a marriage-like relationship for less than two years and have a child with your ex-spouse.
Please remember that these conditions do not automatically qualify you or an ex-spouse for support.
If you are looking to receive spousal support, you will still need to apply for it through the legal process.
With the professional help of a successful and experienced Family Lawyer like Uphar Dhaliwal and her team at Dhanu Dhaliwal Law Group, your spousal support issues won’t feel like such a huge problem anymore and you can get back to living your life.