What is Spousal Support? (as it related to Ontario Family Law, Canada)

Allowance. Allowance or Alimony

The Canadian law views spousal relationships as a financial partnership. When that partnership comes to an end, the assets are divided up between the two partners. When there is an imbalance to the division, whether the case is one partner has a higher income or they wind up with more assets, that partner may be required to pay the other spousal support.


When determining the amount of spousal support and the length of time that it should be paid, the law states the judge must consider a number of different factors, including how much support one person needs to meet their needs and how much the person required to pay can afford. Here are some basic guidelines regarding spousal support as it relates to Ontario Family Law.


How Spousal Support is Determined

There are a number of factors which are considered when determining the amount of spousal support, including the parties’ assets, income, age, health, the standard of living, ability to be self-sufficient, contribution to each other’s career and length of the marriage, just to name a few.


The court will review all of the economic factors that affect each spouse, with an emphasis on the effect of the marriage and the divorce on the parties’ financial circumstances. The judge will then try to apportion the family income in a fair manner between the two parties.


Length of Spousal Support

In the case of long-term marriages and when there are children involved, the courts usually don’t place a time limit on spousal support. This doesn’t mean it is expected to continue indefinitely, it just means that the courts can’t always predict how long the financial situation of each spouse will require the present agreement. For example, if your financial situation changes, you can always go back to court and make an adjustment to your agreement if the court finds it’s reasonable.


Review Order

A type of spousal support which is becoming more common is known as a “Review Order.” In the case of a review order, the court states that the amount of the spousal support can be reviewed after a certain amount of time. This type of order gives you the opportunity to go back to court and modify your order without having to show that your spouse’s financial situation has changed. This is not a guarantee that the support order will be modified, it simply means that the court will revisit the situation again at a later date.


Review orders are commonly made when one spouse is out of work but is expected to regain gainful employment, usually after some form of training or education.


Interim Spousal Support

Interim spousal support is awarded during the period before the divorce is finalized. This agreement usually consists of an estimated amount which is meant to satisfy the recipient until a more detailed analysis can be conducted. When the divorce is finalized, spousal support is also made final and the interim amount is taken into consideration as well.


Spousal Support Guidelines

The Spousal Support Guidelines are simply recommendations, they aren’t indisputable, even though the courts generally follow the guidelines. However, if a judge grants an amount that is significantly different from the guidelines, they must give reasons for their decision.


Spousal Support isn’t meant to be an exact science, so it helps to have a lawyer who specializes in divorce law to give you guidance and ensure your rights and best interests are being protected.


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