Spousal support is one of the most unclear and muddled areas of separation and divorce.
Entitlement to Spousal Support
Not all separations involve support. For many short relationships, or relationships where both parties worked throughout their time together, there may be no entitlement to support. Spousal support is also not gender-based; higher-earning female partners are just as liable to be asked to pay support as higher-earning male partners. The amount of support is decided on a case-by-case basis, often driven by need for support and ability to pay.
In an effort to clarify the matter, the government publishes Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG). These are similar to the Child Support Guidelines that use your incomes and the length of the relationship to give a range of acceptable support. Unlike child support guidelines, following the SSAG is not mandatory. However, judges often use the SSAG as a starting point.
Amount of Support: A Case-By-Case Determination
Before giving you an opinion about the range of support you should expect, our lawyers will ask you:
- How long did your relationship last? Whether you are married or common-law, the longer you lived together as a couple, the more likely it is that the lower-earning spouse will be entitled to support;
- Are there children to support? Child support is mandatory and has priority over spousal support;
- What was your role during the relationship? Any sacrifices made for the family will be taken into account. These include staying home to raise children, moving to facilitate the other spouse’s career, and putting the other spouse through school;
- What other factors may affect need or ability to pay support? These may include health or age concerns, lifestyle during the marriage, new spouses, or your decisions about property such as the marital home.
If you cannot determine support amicably through negotiation or alternative dispute resolution, the court may decide to give support as compensation for earning power lost during the marriage, or as an acknowledgement that the spouses had an implied contract that included financial support for the lower-earning spouse.
There are no easy answers. At Brown Law Firm we will help you to understand what your rights and obligations are, as well as the reasonable range of outcomes for your particular family.