The end of a relationship can mean that one spouse needs spousal support from the other. This may be due to differences in income, and/or a spouse having made sacrifices for the sake of the relationship, such as staying home to raise children. Spousal support in Vancouver is governed by the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, which apply across Canada, and can be found here.
Spousal support is not an automatic right like child support as entitlement must be established first. Whether or not a spouse can establish entitlement is a complex legal question, and there are no easy answers – therefore obtaining legal counsel on the issue of spousal support is essential.
Once entitlement has been established, the spouse needing support may receive a series of monthly payments (most common), a lump sum, or sometimes a combination of these two. The length of time that support will be paid depends on the ages of the children and the length of the relationship.
- I will help you resolve your spousal support issues out of court by providing you with cost-effective and efficient options such as mediation, Collaborative Divorce, and lawyer-assisted negotiation.
- I will provide you with spousal support information so that you will be well informed about your rights and your and your spouse’s obligations.
Frequently Asked Questions
• Spousal support is money paid by the spouse who is the higher income earner to the other.
• Spousal support is governed by the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, which apply across Canada, and can be found here.
• The Family Law Act governs support where the spouses are not married and the Family Law Act and Divorce Act both govern support where the spouses are married.
• Spousal support is not an automatic right like child support is – a spouse must first establish entitlement.
• Entitlement may be established by:
(1) Need – also known as “non-compensatory” entitlement. This basis of entitlement is premised on the needs of the spouses, their means, and their respective standards of living. “Need” can mean basic needs, but it has also generally been interpreted to cover a significant decline in the standard of living from the marital standard. Non-compensatory support reflects the economic interdependency that develops as a result of a shared life, including elements of reliance and expectation, summed up in the phrase “merger over time”. The degree and duration of non-compensatory entitlement will depend on the marital standard of living, the post-separation means and needs of the spouses, and the duration of the relationship.
(2) Compensation – also known as “compensatory” entitlement. Compensatory entitlement will arise where, as a result of the parties’ roles during the marriage, one spouse has suffered economic disadvantage or has conferred economic advantages on the other. Most often, such entitlement will arise when one spouse has sacrificed career opportunities in order to take on more of the family’s household or child-rearing responsibilities. Upon the dissolution of the spousal relationship, the spouse who has given up opportunities may be entitled to spousal support, either to compensate for diminished earning capacity or to share in the increased earning capacity of the other spouse. The main goal of compensatory spousal support is to provide for an equitable sharing of the economic consequences of the marriage.
(3) Contract – this is present when there is an agreement between the spouses that one will pay support to the other.
•The amount of spousal support that will be paid depends on the strength of the entitlement of a spouse, the spouses’ incomes, and the parenting arrangements of the spouses’ child or children, if any.
• The length of time that spousal support will be paid will depend on the length of the spousal relationship and the ages of the child or children, if any.
• A spouse’s income will be determined under the Federal Child Support Guidelines, which can be found here: https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/sor-97-175/index.html
• A spouse’s personal tax return income may not be the income that is used for the calculation of spousal support, and thus it is very important to obtain legal advice on the issue of income determination. For example:
1. A spouse may have income “imputed” to them on the basis of what they should be earning if they are not working as much as they should be, or are working at a job that is below their skill level (and are thus earning less than they should be).
2. A spouse may have income attributed to them if they are a shareholder, director or officer of a corporation and have access to income that does not show up on their personal tax return. This is often the case where a spouse “hides” income in the company – for example, they may pay themselves less than their company earns to reduce taxes/their support obligations, and may pay for personal expenses with company money. In this case, the income they have available to them through their company may be “attributed” to them.
• The spousal support analysis is complex and is usually the most difficult issue to resolve in a family law case. It is therefore very important to obtain legal advice on what your rights and obligations are with respect to spousal support before you make an agreement.
Spousal Support Guidance
I am a knowledgeable and practical lawyer whom you can trust. My goal is to determine the solution that is best for you and your family. I will advise you on your spousal support rights and obligations and equip you with the information you need to make informed decisions. I am accessible, which means I am available to answer your questions and respond promptly to your emails and phone calls.