Calgary & Strathmore Spousal Support Lawyers

When a couple separates and one person has been the primary source of income in a household, the other spouse may suffer financial hardship from the economic and situational separations. In this case, the former spouse, whom the family court will order to pay spousal support, will be the partner who provides the financial support in the relationship because they will have the economic advantages. The other spouse will receive spousal support payments due to more assumed financial consequences for that party. However, the entire process can be mitigated and altered for each unique situation through the help of trained family lawyers.

The compassionate family lawyers at Getz Collins and Associates help spouses navigate their spousal support rights and obligations after a separation. We understand the emotional and financial impacts a separation can have on both parties and help resolve matters as swiftly and cost-effectively as possible in the circumstances.

Spousal Support (Alimony) in Alberta

In the family law court, spousal support (sometimes incorrectly referred to as “alimony”) is meant to help any negative aftermath one former spouse may suffer after the proceedings. For example:

  • Burdens felt from court/lawyers’ fees by the spouse;
  • Child care expenses not covered by child support payments;
  • Suffering from the new loss of income; and
  • Giving time to let the spouse support themselves, financially.

Family law does not account for either party’s behaviour during the marriage when calculating spousal support. Spousal support is meant to be a form of assistance, not a reward or penalty to either party.

How Is Spousal Support Determined?

A couple may come to their own agreement about spousal support entitlement and amounts through a domestic contract or separation agreement. If they do not have an agreement, a family law judge determines if either spouse is eligible to claim spousal support. If granted, the judge calculates the spousal support by examining factors associated with the need of the receiving spouse versus the payor spouse’s ability. The court requires each spouse or partner to be fully financially and economically transparent with the court and each other while spousal support is calculated.

During this time, a court will request full, complete financial disclosure from both parties. This may include:

  • A list of all debts and assets;
  • Several years of completed tax returns;
  • Pay stubs or proof of income;
  • A list of monthly receipts or expenses; and/or
  • Evidence of medical or collegiate needs that cause financial disadvantage.

Spousal support is usually calculated by referencing the Divorce Act and Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines as well as reference to provincial family laws (in Alberta, this is the Family Law Act).

Spousal Support & Common-Law Couples (Adult Interdependent Relationships)

In Alberta, common-law relationships are legally recognized as Adult Interdependent Relationships. If an Adult Interdependent Relationship dissolves, either partner may be entitled to spousal support (Adult Interdependent Partner support). In order to be legally considered an Adult Interdependent Relationship, a couple must have cohabited in a relationship of interdependence for at least three years or have a child together and lived in a relationship of some permanence.

A number of factors are considered by courts when determining whether a common-law/adult interdependent partner is entitled to Adult Interdependent Partner support, including:

  • The length of the relationship;
  • The disparity of income between the partners;
  • The roles the partners assumed during the relationship (e.g. if one partner stayed home with the couple’s children instead of working); and
  • Potential sacrifices made by a partner for the benefit of the relationship (such as staying home to be a homemaker to support the other partner’s career).

These cases are determined on a case-by-case basis and can vary greatly depending on each couple’s circumstances.

How Long Must a Payor Provide Spousal Support?

In Alberta, if a couple did not share children, spousal support is often ordered to last for six months to a year for each year the parties lived together.

If the couple had children, there are federal child support guidelines the court will follow that will factor into deciding spousal support payments.

When the couple has children, the court will adjust spousal support to take into account the parenting arrangements in place. The court will also consider factors such as the length of the marriage and the amount of time until the parties’ children reach school age, if applicable.

Variations to Spousal Support Orders

A change in either spouse’s financial situation may warrant an amended or varied spousal support order. Either party can apply to change a spousal support order if there is a change in the condition, means or other circumstances of either of the parties.

However, if the spousal support order has a clause that says that support is to end at a specific date, and the party receiving the support wishes to extend it, the Divorce Act says that the party applying must also prove the following:

  • The variation order is needed to relieve economic hardship;
  • The economic hardship arose from the change in circumstances;
  • The economic hardship and/or the change in circumstances are related in some way to the marriage; and
  • If the parties had known that the change in circumstances would occur at the time they entered into the previous spousal support order, that order would have been different from what it was.

Getz Collins and Associates: Providing Trusted Spousal Support Advice in Calgary, Strathmore & Across Alberta

The family and divorce lawyers at Getz Collins and Associates strive to understand each client’s unique needs and their family’s circumstances. They create tailor-made, innovative legal solutions to address clients’ spousal support needs and obligations and are skilled negotiators and advocates when disputes arise.

Getz Collins and Associates use a client-centric, community-minded approach to create practical legal solutions in family law matters. Conveniently located in Calgary and Strathmore, we serve communities across Alberta, including Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks, Drumheller, Chestermere, Hussar, and all surrounding areas. Call 587-391-5600 or contact us online to book your confidential consultation.