The end of a relationship can be devastating under the best of circumstances. However, it can be detrimental to an individual’s financial well-being if their spouse has been their primary source of income. In this case, a court may order spousal support payments from the spouse who had provided financial support (known as the payor spouse) to the spouse who had less or no income (known as the receiving spouse.)

What is the Purpose of Spousal or Partner Support?

The Divorce Act of Canada, along with the Family Law Act of Alberta, proposes spousal support to:

  • Recognize that each spouse has the propensity to gain or lose economically due to the events of the divorce;
  • In the case of children, the custodial parent may face financial consequences above and beyond what is covered by child support;
  • Recognize that financial difficulties may be accrued by one party more than the other due to the divorce;
  • Give spouses time to ensure their own financial independence.

When Can Spousal Support Be Ordered?

An “Adult Interdependent Relationship” in Canadian law exists if two people have signed the Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement, have lived together in interdependence for three or more years, or have lived together in interdependence with a shared child by either birth or adoption. Canadian law defines interdependence as two people who share one another’s lives, are committed to one another emotionally, and function as one unit economically and domestically.

If a relationship of Adult Interdependency applies for a divorce, the court will apply for spousal support provisions. They may also order spousal support if the parties have not yet started a divorce action but are involved in a separation.

When Calculating Spousal Support, What Factors are Considered?

To assess which spouse may be entitled to pay or receive spousal support, the court requires the couple to be financially and economically transparent with each other and the court. During this time, a court will request the following:

  • Each partner’s most recent three years of complete tax returns
  • A tax status form is known as a “Notice of Assessment” for each of the past three years
  • Pay stubs or another form of income proof for the current tax year
  • Receipts or lists proving monthly expenses
  • List of all assets and debts
  • Proof of medical issue and/or proof of registration at an educational institution that prevents you from being able to support yourself financially

What Is the Receiving Spouse Entitled To?

To compute a scope of Spousal Support that may be awarded to a recipient spouse who does not have custody of children, a court will use the following factors:

  • Low-End amount: Find the difference between the gross incomes of each party. Multiply that difference by .015. Multiply that number by the number of years the parties have lived together.
  • High-end amount: Find the difference between the gross incomes of the two parties. Multiply that number by .02. Multiply that number by the number of years the parties lived together.

The court can order that a payor spouse, without children, pay support to a recipient spouse for a maximum of one year per year the parties had lived together. However, the amount of time ordered is usually around ½ year per year the parties cohabitated.

If children are involved, you can calculate an approximate amount by taking the net disposable incomes of each of the parties, after taxes, deductions, and childcare expenses, to leave 40-46% of the total to the recipient of spousal support. Calculating spousal support with child support is complicated and takes special software to calculate correctly. You must contact a lawyer if you want more specific information about how much should be paid. The amount will also vary depending on whether or not custody is shared or split or if the children also reside with the payor of spousal support. Child support will take precedence in cases combining both child support and spousal support in which the payor cannot pay both.

Can A Spousal Support Order Be Changed?

Situations can change spousal support in numerous ways; by court order, upon the conditions for stopping payment as agreed upon by the court, or if both the payor and receiver spouse agree to the change.

A spouse can request to change spousal support orders for a variety of circumstances, dependent upon various situational changes, as determined by the judge. For more accurate information regarding your specific case, contact the office of Getz Collins and Associates at 403-934-2500 to schedule a consultation.