Introductions To Spousal Support
When a marriage breaks down, one spouse may be required to provide financial support to the other. Spousal support is the term for this.
Some key facts about Spousal Support
- Spousal support can be paid by either spouse, depending on the agreement between them.
- Gender is not a considered factor when determining the recipient party.
- If a couple agrees, the higher-income spouse can pay spousal support to the lower-income spouse. Either by way of a Separation Agreement (see our blog post about Separation Agreements here), or a Court can order and specify the amount of the support.
- The Court determines the length and amount of spousal support obligations by considering the recipient spouse’s needs. Additionally, the Court takes into account the paying spouse’s ability to pay.
- There are 3 ways to pay spousal support: lump sum, monthly installments, or a combination of the two.
- The Divorce Act, a federal statute, is applicable throughout Canada for spouses who have legally married and who are now attempting a divorce.
- Provincial legislation (the Family Law Act in Ontario) applies to those marriages that are separating but not divorcing, or for common-law relationships.
- There is no time limit for when a spouse must bring forth a claim for spousal support.
- If there has been an agreement or court order for spousal support and a spouse is looking to enforce payment or attempt to collect arrears, there is no applicable limitation period.
- However, the longer the delay in claiming or enforcing spousal support, the harder it becomes. The Court may react adversely if there is a delay that has no reasonable explanation.
The Goal of Spousal Support
Spousal support is a type of financial assistance provided to a spouse who has grown financially reliant on the other. In addition to compensating the career sacrifices one spouse makes, spousal support is designed to recognize the non-monetary contributions that a spouse has made to the marriage. Spousal support aims to provide both spouses with a similar standard of living post-separation.
Self-sufficiency is another goal of spousal support. A spouse is not to remain economically dependent on the other following a separation or divorce.
Entitlements to Spousal Support
A breakdown in a relationship may cause one spouse to worry about their entitlement to spousal support.
If you fall into these categories, you have met the first requirement for spousal support:
- Legally married
- Unmarried common-law relationship living together for at least three years
- Unmarried common-law relationship for any length of time, if they are in “a relationship of some permanence”, and the couple has had a child together.
In respect of (3.), there has been many cases interpreting what “a relationship of some permanence means” but generally speaking, the courts will review a number of factors such as:
- Whether the parties lived together
- Their levels of intimacy
- Whether they interacted socially with each other and with third parties as a couple
- Any intermingling of finances for each other and for their children
- The parties’ intentions or expectations towards a long, indeterminate relationship
The court treats each case differently depending on the particular facts of the matter.
Forms of Spousal Support
There are two types of spousal support entitlement. The first is compensatory support, and the other is non-compensatory support.
Compensatory support is given to a spouse who has made sacrifices for the relationship. Compensatory spousal support looks to recognize these contributions to the marriage and compensate the disadvantaged spouse.
Non-compensatory support is when one spouse helps the other out financially after their relationship ends. A spouse may be more equipped to deal with the financial implications of a divorce than the other.
If you have any questions about spousal support, please contact us for a free consultation. You can call us at 905-366-0202 or alternatively you can reach us through our website here.