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What is Spousal Support and How Do I Get It?

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Spousal or partner support is an enacted law within the Divorce and Family Law Act meant to recognize a few different aspects that may happen in the aftermath of a divorce. For example:

  • any benefit or impediment a spouse may incur due to the ending of a marriage
  • the care of children over and beyond the coverage of child support
  • lessening financial hardship that may have taken place in a spouse’s life due to the divorce process itself
  • facilitate that the disadvantaged spouse be able to support themselves within a suitable period of time

When considering which party receives spousal support, either party’s misconduct during the marriage may have led to the divorce itself is not to be taken into account. Spousal support is not intended as a reward or punishment to either spouse, merely a benefit to be used in the above means.

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.

How Much Spousal Support is to Be Paid, And for How Long?

First, the judge must decide if the spouse or partner asking for support is entitled to it. If the judge determines they are not entitled, the asking partner does not receive spousal support. Suppose they are qualified to receive spousal support, and the judge grants it. In that case, the judge will look at the objectives and factors regarding that spouse’s disadvantages to determine the amount of support they receive.

There is a set of Spousal Support Guidelines the judge may turn to when determining the amount of spousal support a requesting spouse receives. In most cases, a particular software is needed to calculate the amount ordered. There are different formulas, depending on whether or not children are involved, whether child support is a factor, and payor vs. recipient spouse income.

The court determines how long the payor spouse must provide spousal support; this formula is also calculated differently if children are involved. If there are no children between the spouses, spousal support is typically ordered between ½ and 1 year for each year the parties lived together. For example, if the parties lived together for 20 years, spousal support can be ordered to be paid for 10 to 20 years.

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.

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