In Ontario, spousal support is money paid from one spouse to the other for financial support upon the breakdown of a relationship. A couple is said to have been in a relationship if
- they were legally married;
- they were in a common-law relationship for at least three years; or
- they had a biological child or adopted a child together and were in a relationship of some permanence.
Do I have to pay spousal support?
Whether a spouse is entitled to spousal support depends on several factors. Some of them include:
- The length of the relationship
- The roles played by each spouse throughout the relationship
- The age of the spouses at the time of separation
- The ability of one spouse to support the other
- The ability of the recipient spouse to become self-sufficient
No spouse is automatically entitled to support. Such entitlement may arise out of an agreement between the partners, or if one person applies to the court for support. In that case, the court may determine how much support will be required, if any, and the duration of the support.
How much is owed?
There are no strict rules to calculate the number of support payments. Instead, numerous governing principles work together to address each situation on a case-by-case basis.
In fact, without an existing agreement by the parties themselves, the calculation is rather complex and involves a number of factors, including
- the length of the relationship;
- the financial repercussions of separation and divorce on each spouse;
- a spouse’s financial dependence or independence; and
- a spouse’s future ability to support himself or herself.
Although they are not obligated to do so, the courts can calculate amounts using the Federal Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, which take income, length of the relationship, and other variables into account.
What should we do if we agree on spousal support?
If both spouses agree on spousal support, then they can put the details of their agreement in a separation/divorce agreement. This agreement can also cover other topics, such as division of property, child support, and access/parenting time.
What should we do if we can’t agree on spousal support?
If one or both spouses cannot agree on spousal support, there are three approaches they can take.
- It may be advisable to bring in a mediator to arrive at a mutual agreement. The mediator is a neutral facilitator who will help both spouses reach a common ground.
- If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement, then both spouses may need to hire their own lawyers for negotiation or arbitration. In arbitration, a neutral facilitator makes a decision based on the law and facts that are presented to them in the case.
- If none of these approaches work, then there is no other choice but to resolve the disagreement in court. The judge will then make a court order setting out the amount that should be paid on spousal support
When does spousal support end?
The duration of spousal support depends on a number of factors depending on the situation. For example:
- Spousal support always ends when the support recipient dies.
- Spousal support does not always end when the support payor dies. Spousal support may continue if there is life insurance
- or assets in which spousal support can still be paid.
- Spousal support does not automatically end when the support recipient lives with or marries someone else.
- Spousal support does not automatically end when the support payor retires.
Can I change/end spousal support?
You or your partner can try to change or end spousal support. The court will do this only if there has been a material change. This means you have to show that your situation has changed so much that your agreement needs to be updated to fit those changes.
Sorting out spousal support is not a simple matter.
For a free consultation with an AGB family lawyer to talk about protecting your rights and understanding your obligations in the event of a marriage breakdown, call us today in Ottawa at 613-232-8832 or email us. Want to talk right now? A representative is available for a live chat.
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