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The "Basics" of Spousal Support (Alimony)

The truth is that there is little that is "basic" about Spousal Support (alimony). This post attempts to explain the basic mechanics of how to determine whether you should make claim for spousal support.

Spousal support is made up of the following components:

  1. entitlement;
  2. amount; and
  3. duration.

Before considering the amount (e.g. "X" dollars per month) and duration (e.g. payable for the next "X" years), the Court will consider whether you are "entitled" to receive a Spousal Support aware.

The Divorce Act and the Family Law Act both address the issue of "entitlement". Although there are differences between the approaches in each respective legislation, both approaches consider the following factors when assessment whether "entitlement" has been made out:

  • were you married to each other;
  • did you live in a "marriage-like relationship" for at least 2 years;
  • do you have a child with each other;
  • have you ever been "spouses";
  • the length of your relationship;
  • the difference in your incomes;
  • the age at which you started your relationship;
  • earning ability of each party; and
  • economic disadvantage suffered due to entering relationship (e.g., whether your advancement in your workplace/career suffered because you prioritized child-rearing) .

If the Court is of the view that "entitlement" is satisfied, then you must consider the "amount" and "duration" of spousal support payments. Each province differs in how they determine these questions. The Courts will generally consult the parties' respective financial budgets and the "Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines" approach.

Not every province prefers to follow the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. 

In British Columbia, the courts like to consider the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. It is of note that these guidelines are not law - although in British Columbia some judges appear to treat it as so.

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are complicated. In order to get an accurate figure, you will likely have to consult a family law practitioner who has paid for specific software , such as "Divorcemate". However, there are free Spousal Support calculators online which will give you a rough estimate. If you do an internet search on the term "spousal support calculator" online, you can pull up the pertinent page and plug in the relevant information. These calculators can give you an estimate of what you would receive. However, these calculators do not address the question of "Entitlement". 

Written by
Mark J. Chiu
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