Separation and divorce can be a difficult and emotional process. Legal documents such as Cohabitation or Separation Agreements can provide stability and predictability when a relationship ends. However, Alberta’s family courts are filled with contested legal proceedings that may have serious financial consequences. 

It’s important to note that although divorce (strictly speaking, the dissolution of marriage) gets most of the attention, with recent changes to Alberta’s family law legislation, many of the same legal responsibilities apply to unmarried couples who live together or have children. 

What Are The Costs Associated With Divorce And Separation?

We can categorize the expenses of the breakup of a relationship or marriage as follows: 

  1. Support
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  1. Division of Property
  2. Legal 
  • Legal representation
  • Court fees and other expenses

Am I Going To Have To Pay Child Support? 

If you are ending a relationship and you have children, then one of you is probably going to have to pay child support

Courts are very strict about ordering child support because it is the legal responsibility of every parent to support their children financially. Even if it is paid to the other parent, the purpose of child support is to benefit the child. 

You can reference the Department of Justice’s Child Support Table to understand how much child support is payable. You can calculate the amount of child support you should pay every month based on your gross annual income (line 150 of your income tax return), your province of residence, and the number of children. 

The situation changes when the parenting time is shared (at least 40% of the children’s time is with each parent). In this case, the child support amount is “set off.” This means the amount calculated for each parent is subtracted from the others. 

For example, if Parent A’s payable amount is $200, and Parent B’s payable amount is $500, then Parent B pays Parent A $300 ($500-$200 = $300). 

There are other financial consequences for breakups involving children, such as Special Expenses and who receives the Canada Child Tax Benefit. 

Am I Going To Receive Spousal Support? 

Spousal support is more complicated than child support

For one, there is no fixed amount payable. You can still know how much you could have to pay using a free online tool, such as the support calculator. However, this is only to show you a range of possibilities. Significant differences can exist between the amounts that could be ordered based on the circumstances, and these determinations are usually quite complex. 

Generally speaking, spousal support will be ordered depending on the amount of time the parties lived together, the nature of their relationship (whether one spouse sacrificed their own economic situation for the benefit of the family, if one spouse was especially wasteful or selfish, etc.), the ability of a spouse to pay, and the need of the receiving spouse. 

Keep in mind that for spousal (and also child support), retroactive payments can also be awarded. If you were not paying support when you should have been in the past (or you were underpaying), a court could order you to make up the difference. This can be ordered on a higher monthly basis or as a lump sum. With court delays being what they are, retroactive payments can quickly add up to thousands of dollars!

Another factor to determine is how to calculate the amount of income used to calculate each spouse’s income. In some cases, the court may “impute” income to a person it believes is intentionally earning less than they could. This means a person has to pay at a higher rate than they earn. This is used exceptionally to address cases where one spouse deliberately earns less, sometimes purely out of spite. 

Division Of Property

In principle, all property that belonged to the family during a marriage should be split equally on a 50-50 basis. This includes all forms of property: stocks, bonds, RRSPs, TFSAs, pension plans, real estate, cars, boats, recreational vehicles, cash, cryptocurrency, sports memorabilia, and any other kind of property you can imagine. 

There are limited exceptions for property received through an inheritance or gifts. However, suppose property received has been “co-mingled” with marital property by being used for the purposes of the family. In that case, it can also become subject to an equal division. 

Usually, when it comes to calculating the division of property, spouses will create an inventory of all of the family property in each of their possessions, establish a value, create total amounts for each of their respective possessions, and then calculate an amount payable to the spouse with the lower amount, called an “Equalization Payment.” 

Of course, there are often disagreements about how much certain assets are worth or whether a given property qualifies as belonging to the family. 

What Are Other Expenses During A Divorce Or Breakup?

Of course, there are legal fees. Good legal advice does not come cheap. However, given the significant financial consequences, you can consider it an investment. Some well-timed counsel and direction on the right subjects can save you thousands of dollars or, by contrast, could help you pursue a valid claim for your rightful legal compensation. 

There are other legal fees to consider. For example, there will be filing fees for certain documents at the court. You may have to pay a process server to serve the other party personally. You may have to hire professionals, such as psychiatrists or other experts, to testify in your support at trial. 

Once the legal proceedings have been completed, the court may also order you to pay costs to the other side. This legal mechanism has been established to encourage settlement and provide consequences for claims that are not well supported in law. 

Divorce and the end of relationships are some of the most stressful events of a person’s life. Emotions will be running high, and it can be difficult to tell what your legal rights and responsibilities should be. 

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to plan for a breakup before it happens. A well-drafted Separation or Cohabitation Agreement can set expectations before conflict clouds the situation and can save you considerable expenses and heartache over the long run. 

The Family Lawyers At Getz Collins & Associates In Calgary And Strathmore Can Help You Answer All Of Your Family Law Questions

Separation and divorce can be emotional and complicated, especially if children are involved. In the case of a divorce or family matter, Getz Collins and Associates in Calgary and Strathmore develop tailored solutions based on the unique circumstances of each client and their family. Our family lawyers assist separated and divorced spouses and adult independent (common law) partners in navigating their rights and obligations. To schedule a confidential consultation on your family law matter, please contact us online or call 587-391-5600.