Spousal Support

Spousal support is monthly support paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce or separation. Spousal support is not always necessary but when it does exists, usually the higher income earner is the one paying spousal support to the lower income earner. Gender is not a factor.

Spousal support may be an issue for both married and unmarried spouses. The first step is to determine if a spouse is entitled to spousal support. To determine entitlement, the first question is to determine if the parties are actually spouses.  For married spouses, this is not an issue, however for unmarried spouses, they must live together as a couple for at least three years or have a relationship of some permanence and a child together. This is often referred to as common law spouses.  Once it is determined that that the parties are spouses, then entitlement revolves around the factors and objectives of spousal support as listed in the Family Law Act and the Divorce Act.

The purpose of spousal support is to recognize a spouse’s contribution to a relationship, to share the financial costs of caring for a child, to relieve financial hardship, to assist a spouse in contributing to their own support and to correct any economic advantage or disadvantage to a spouse caused by the marriage/relationship or its breakdown. In most cases, the payee spouse, that is, the recipient, is expected to become self-supporting as soon as possible, if possible.

The amount and duration of spousal support can be negotiated and agreed to by the parties or ordered by a judge.  At Heft Law, we can assist in the negotiation of spousal support.

Factors that are taken into consideration when determining spousal support are: the length of the  relationship, whether there are children and the arrangements made for the children, the roles the spouses played during the marriage; the age of the spouses and each spouse’s financial situation.

The basis for the negotiation of the amount and duration of spousal support or a court ordered spousal support is the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, commonly referred to as the SSAGs.  The SSAGs provide a range of amounts of spousal support as well as a range of durations.  While the SSAGs are not legislated, they are heavily relied upon by judges and lawyers.

Monthly spousal support is taxable as income in the hands of the recipient and a tax deduction for the payor of spousal support.  Spousal support can be paid monthly or in some circumstances, spousal support may be payable as a lump sum. When paid out as a lump sum, it becomes non taxable in the hands of the recipient and this factor is taken into consideration when calculating a lump sum.

Heft Law has extensive experience working on spousal support in Ontario, striving diligently to ensure spouses receiving support receive all that they are entitled to and those paying support are not overpaying or being taken advantage of.

Contact us at Heft Law for a No Fee 30 minute initial consultation to explore possible resolutions for spousal support.