Areas of Legal Practice
Sometimes one needs support to move forward.
When two spouses separate or divorce, there may be a situation of financial inequality or hardship experienced by one spouse that must be addressed with a Spousal Support Order or a domestic agreement. The purpose of spousal support is set out in the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act. These Acts state that a Spousal Support Order should:
- (a) recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the marriage or its breakdown;
- (b) apportion between the spouses any financial consequences arising from the care of any child of the marriage over and above any obligation for the support of any child of the marriage;
- (c) relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the marriage; and
- (d) in so far as practicable, promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time.
Spousal support is typically a payment of a sum of money once per month from the higher income earning spouse to the lower income earning spouse. Married spouses as well as common law spouses are eligible to seek spousal support. To be eligible, you must be able to demonstrate that you qualify under one of the following categories:
- Compensatory Claims: you must be able to demonstrate that you suffered an economic loss or were economically disadvantaged by the marriage (or cohabitation if you are not married) or that the other spouse received an economic benefit as a result of the roles assumed during the relationship. For example, a stay-at-home parent who gave up his/her career to care for the children while the other parent was able to advance in his/her career;
- Non-Compensatory, Needs-based Claims: you must be able to demonstrate that you have a need for spousal support. For example, a disabled spouse who is unable to earn an income may need spousal support to afford his/her living after separation—however, “need” can be established in ways that are not as drastic as a disability, such as where there is a significant reduction to your standard of living from the standard of living that was enjoyed during the relationship; and,
- Contractual Claims: if you have entered into a cohabitation agreement or marriage contract that predetermines entitlements to spousal support, then you may be eligible to receive spousal support under the terms of the agreement or contract.
If eligibility to receive spousal support is established, then the amount and the duration of payments must be determined. Unlike child support, where the amounts are set out by the legislature, spousal support is not standardized and determining the amount and duration of spousal support will require a consideration of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (the “SSAGs”), the purposes of spousal support orders set out in the Acts and any other relevant factors. The analysis is broad, factually driven and highly contextual. We can work with you to understand the roles assumed during the relationship and can assess whether there is an entitlement to spousal support, how much should be paid and for how long.