The 20th Year of Marriage and Indefinite Spousal

Support Obligation

At the dissolution of a marriage or common-law relationship, there is normally one partner who will be making less than the other. Spousal support payments are paid from the higher-earning partner to the lower-earning partner after a separation. This article will focus on the duration, or length, of spousal support. The duration of spousal support is a separate calculation from the amount.1

So, how long will spousal support payments last? Some spousal support is time-limited and some spousal support is indefinite. If spousal support is time-limited, this will be stated in the separation agreement or court order.2 Read on to find out more.

The “Without Child Support” formula for duration

The duration of spousal support generally increases with the length of the marriage. It will last for a minimum time of half the length of the marriage and a maximum time of the total length of the marriage.3

However, spousal support will be considered “indefinite” in two circumstances:

1) When the marriage has lasted longer than 20 years

2) When the marriage has lasted longer than 5 years and the AGE of the recipient at the time of separation + the years of marriage is more than or equal to 65.4

Example: Cher and Dionne were married for 10 years. Cher is receiving spousal support from Dionne. Cher is 56. Dionne will pay Cher spousal support indefinitely.

Spousal support that is “indefinite” will end when either both partners agree that it should, or (if they don’t agree) when a judge in court decides. Some spousal supports have imposed review dates, which means that there is a date when the judge will look at your spousal support and decide whether to change it.5

If spousal support is “indefinite”, this does not mean that it will continue indefinitely at the same amount per month. Rather, it is still subject to review and potential variation based on changes in the circumstances of you and your partner.6

The “With Child Support” formula for duration

Couples with children will follow this formula. There will be circumstantial variations to the formula below, such as those for shared or split custody, and for blended families with step-children.7

In most cases where there are dependant children, the court will order “indefinite” spousal support, subject to review and variation. Often, these orders, although initially “indefinite”, do not end up being permanent due to intervening events (such as material financial changes for the partners). There are, however, additional guiding durational limits based on

1) The age of the children

2) The length of the marriage8

The age-of-children test for duration:

The upper end of the range, meaning the longer time for this duration is until the date when the last or youngest child finishes high school. Meanwhile, the lower end of the range, or the shorter time, is until the date when the youngest child starts full-time schooling.9

The length-of-marriage test for duration:

The upper end of the range is one year of support for each year of marriage, subject to the indefinite limits of the without-child-support formula for support after 20 years of marriage. The lower end is the one-half year of support for each year of marriage, which will always be the lower end formula used where all children of the marriage are already school age.10

The Basic With Child Support Formula for Duration

Between the two above tests, the one with the longest duration will be the one chosen:

Upper End of the Range:

the longer of

● the length of the marriage, or

● the date the last or youngest child finishes high school

Lower End of the Range:

the longer of

● one-half the length of the marriage, or

● the date the youngest child starts full-time school11

Whether you are curious about spousal support, or any other family law issues, do not hesitate to get in touch with one of the specialized Family lawyers at Tailor law. You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here.

Nothing in this article should be considered or relied on as legal advice or opinion. This article only provides general information and should you require assistance, please contact us to book a free initial consultation.

1 Steps to Justice, “what is spousal support” (31 July 2017) online (blog): Steps to Justice .

2 Steps to Justice, “When does spousal support end? How do I end it?” (31 July 2017) online (blog): Steps to Justice.

3 Canada, Department of Justice, Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines July 2008 (last updated 4 August 2017) at Chapter 7.5 [SS Guidelines]

4 Ibid at Chapter 7.5.2. 5 STJ, supra note 2. 6 SS Guidelines, supra note 2 at Chapter 7.5.2.7 SS Guidelines, supra note 2 at Chapter 8.5 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid. 11 SS Guidelines, supra note 2 at Chapter 8.5

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