Caution: This page contains ONLY GENERAL LEGAL INFORMATION.
It is NOT LEGAL ADVICE nor a replacement for talking to a lawyer
and getting legal advice about your case.
The law can be complicated and the details of a case can be even more complicated!
There are exceptions for every rule.
What you do not know can harm you. Do not rely on general legal information.
AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Who is Obligated to Pay Support?
The obligation to pay support might arise if:
the parties were married (whether or not they are now divorced); or
the parties lived together for three (3) years or more; or
the parties lived together in a relationship of some permanence and had a child together
There is no deadline after separation to bring this claim. A divorce does not stop the claim. However, delay in making the claim may have a very negative impact on a spousal support claim.
Who is Entitlement to Receive Support?
The mere fact that, after separation, one spouse has a higher income than the other does not automatically result in a requirement to pay support. To determine whether spousal support should actually be required, the law looks at a number of grounds or criteria.
What are the Grounds for Spousal Support?
Compensation for Economic Disadvantage or Advantage
Support will often be ordered if a party has been financially disadvantage or the other party receives financial advantages as a result of the relationship. This most commonly occurs because of responsibilities undertaken or other events during the relationship. For example,
giving up educational opportunities to earn money to support a spouse while they get education
undertaking the major responsibility for the care of children
If rules governing the equalization of property do not result in a "fair" distribution given a spouse's contribution, the spouse may be granted support payments.
If a spouse is responsible for care of children after separation, this is a major factor for spousal support.
If one party is destitute (for example on Ontario Works or other welfare) after separation and the other party has the means to assist, support will often be ordered. It may also be ordered in less extreme cases. If there is a drastic drop in one spouse's standard of living (and not the other), this may justify a support order.
How is Duration & Amount Determined?
Once the requirement to pay support has been confirmed, the next questions are how long and how much. Lawyers and judges use the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines as an aid in deciding these issues. As the name suggests, it is advisory rather than mandatory.
A range of information is put into a spousal support calculator, for example:
duration of relationship
ages of parties
income of parties
details of children
The calculator will suggest:
a range of support durations
a range of amounts of support
It will include child support calculations and the effects of income tax.
These calculations can only be done with computer software (usually DIVORCEmate).
These calculations are the basis for negotiations and, if necessary, for a judge's decision. But other factors are also considered.
Where Can You Get More Information?
The contents of this paper contain a major simplification of the rules regarding spousal support. There are many exceptions and complications.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
Yes. This is very complicated. Serious money can be involved. (Note that Duty Counsel provide very little advice regarding spousal support, because of the complexity.)