Family and Divorce Law 101

Basics of Spousal Support

What Is Spousal Support?

Ontario law sees spousal relationships as an economic partnership, and therefore, in some instances, a spouse may have to pay another spouse support payments. Typically, the spouse earning a higher income will pay spousal support. Spousal support is the money paid by one spouse to the other after a separation or divorce and is put into place for many purposes such as:

  • To help a spouse become financially self-sufficient after the breakdown of a relationship
  • To prevent a spouse from experiencing financial difficulty due to the breakdown of the relationship
  • To share the costs of childcare and;
  • To compensate one spouse for being financially disadvantaged during the relationship. This can be in instances where one spouse stopped working to take care of the children.


Who Is Entitled to Spousal Support?

Spouses who were either married, lived together/cohabitated as a couple for at least three years, or were in a relationship of some permanence for any length of time and had children together may be entitled to spousal support.

The court will look at many factors to determine how much and whether spousal support should be awarded. You will also need to demonstrate at least one of the following to be eligible for spousal support:

  • You had responsibilities during the relationships that prevented you from building your own career. This could be responsibilities such as taking care of your children or helping your spouse build their career
  • The separation or divorce left you in need of spousal support, and that the other spouse is in the position to pay support
  • There is a legal agreement that says you will get spousal support if you separate or divorce


How Much Spousal Support Can You Get – The Spousal Support Guidelines

Several factors are taken into consideration when determining the amount of spousal support. Some of these factors include:

  • Differences in income
  • If there are children in the relationship and who has been caring for them
  • The age of both spouses
  • The role of each spouse during the relationship
  • Mental and physical health
  • The ability to support oneself

In Ontario, the spousal support advisory guidelines (SSAGS) are widely accepted guidelines that lawyers and judges often use to help decide how much spousal support should be paid and for how long. Your lawyer would be able to help you. As a Mississauga family lawyer, Tailor Law will be able to help you


Ways to Set Up Spousal Support

Spousal support can be set up in three primary ways:

  • You can set up spousal support through a separation agreement. This can be done with the assistance of a divorce mediator or family lawyer
  • You can create your own separation agreement. In this case, you may want to file it with the court so that the court can enforce the support terms of your agreement.
  • You can bring your case to the family law court, where a judge will decide the terms of your separation and spousal support.

If you choose to create a separation agreement without going to court, there are a few rules you must keep in mind to ensure that your agreement is legally binding and enforceable. These rules are:

  • You and your spouse understand the terms and consequences of the agreement
  • You and your spouse have given complete and honest information about your finances
  • Neither of you is being pressured to sign

If either of these rules are not met, you or your spouse can ask the court to set aside the agreement, which will no longer be enforceable.


Varying Spousal Support Orders

Despite the existence of a pre-existing domestic contract or court order, there may be changes in your spouse’s situation where it may be necessary to change the spousal support terms in the separation agreement or court order. In other words, you have to show that your situation has changed so much that your agreement needs to be altered to deal with those changes. This is known as a “material change.” Some of these changes include:

  • Change in income
  • The partner that is receiving support is now able to support themselves
  • The partner receiving support remarries
  • The arrangements regarding the children have changed.

In some cases, your separation agreement or court order may already cover what should be done when there is a change. However, where it does not, it may be necessary to draft a new separation agreement.

If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, you may need to talk to a family law professional or go to court to come up with new terms as to how the support amount should be paid. Where you and your spouse agree to change the court order, you will need to complete several documents found here and provide them to the court. Where you and your spouse disagree on the support change, you will need to complete these documents and provide them to the court.


What If My Spouse Does Not Pay the Support?

If your spouse does not pay spousal support despite the separation agreement or court order terms, you have a few options available to you. You can either talk to your spouse about this directly or enlist the help of a lawyer or mediator. If speaking to your spouse directly is not possible, you can also get assistance from the Family Responsibility Office or the court.

Also, if speaking to your spouse directly is not working, you can use a spousal support deduction order. This allows you to request that the spousal support payment be deducted from the payor’s salary and put into a trust account so that it will go to pay spousal support when due. If these options do not work, you can go to court and ask for spousal support enforcement orders. These include spousal support deduction orders as well as spousal support arrears of payment orders. According to the law, these orders allow you to enforce the existing spousal support order, including requesting that your spouse be jailed if they do not pay spousal support.

If you have payments that you cannot pay, spousal support will be waived for a period of time, and you will need to file an income deduction or spousal support order or both to start paying spousal support again. Once the debt is paid off, spousal support can be resumed. If spousal support has been waived for more than three years, spousal support can no longer be re-ordered.


Other Tips About Spousal Support in Ontario Include :

  • #1 tip: Spousal support is not deductible from income tax even if spousal support payments are made through spousal support deduction orders.
  • #2 tip: If making an agreement outlining spousal support, read it carefully and ensure that spousal support is spelt out. If it isn’t spelt out in your separation agreement, don’t sign it until the specifics are clearly laid out.
  • #3 tip: Spousal support cannot be waived unless spousal support has been written into the separation agreement or court order.

To Conclude,

Spousal support is important to the well-being of families. It helps many families get a head start on their new lives with respect and dignity. However, spousal support can be difficult to understand and know how to approach if you are going through a separation or divorce. This article has given you the basics of spousal support in Ontario.

Recent Posts

Scroll to Top