Spousal Support (Alimony)

"Do I have to pay spousal support (alimony)?"
If you earn more than your spouse, you may have to pay spousal support. The longer your marriage and the bigger the difference between your income and your spouse’s income, the greater the chance that you will have to pay spousal support.

"How much spousal support do I have to pay?"
The court considers all of your and your spouse’s circumstances, including:

  • your assets and your spouse’s assets,
  • your income and your spouse’s income,
  • your age and your spouse’s age,
  • your health and your spouse’s health,
  • the standard of living when you lived with your spouse,
  • the ability of your spouse to become self-sufficient,
  • the contribution your spouse has made to your career, and
  • the economic hardship suffered by your spouse arising from the marriage.

A family law lawyer can evaluate how these factors apply to your circumstances and can estimate range of spousal support that you may expect to pay.

"For how long will I have to pay spousal support?"
Generally, courts do not impose a time limit on spousal support unless your marriage was quite brief. However, you can apply to change your spousal support under certain circumstances.

"Why is spousal support generally for an indefinite amount of time?"
Judges like to decide cases on the basis of current facts; they aren’t experts at gazing into crystal balls.

"What is a “review order”?"
Judges nowadays are more inclined to make a “review order” — this is an order that after a certain period of time, the amount of spousal support can be reviewed, without needing to show that there
has been a material change in the financial circumstances of the spouses. Note the this simply allows the spouses and the court to re-examine the issue of spousal support; there is no guarantee that there will be a change in spousal support.

"When is a review order granted?"
These are normally awarded in cases where there is a clear expectation of a change in one spouse’s financial circumstances at an identifiable point in the future. Examples of this may be that the person receiving spousal support will finish a degree by that time, or the person paying support will retire at at certain time. Another time review orders are made is where one spouse should be making efforts towards self-sufficiency, but has failed to do so.

"Will a court automatically grant a review order if one spouse is making efforts towards self-sufficiency?"
No, as normally there will be no identifiable date on which spousal support should be reviewed. Judges can’t predict the future. In a case like this, the person paying spousal support must bring a motion to vary support once the financial circumstances of the spouse receiving spousal support have changed sufficiently.

"Is spousal support tax deductible?"
Yes. In Canada, you may deduct your spousal support payments from your income if you have a separation agreement or court order that requires you to pay spousal support. If you receive spousal support, you are required to pay tax on it.

"Can my spousal support payments be changed?"
Yes. Spousal support payments can be changed anytime there has been a drastic change in circumstances, such as remarriage by your spouse or a dramatic drop in your income. A family lawyer can help you determine whether you are paying too much spousal support and how your payments can be reduced.

"My spouse was unfaithful to me. Do I still have to pay spousal support?"
Your spouse’s misconduct is generally irrelevant when determining whether you must pay spousal support. In fact, there have even been cases where a wife stabbed her husband and the wife was still entitled to spousal support.

"My partner and I were never married. Am I still responsible for spousal support?"
You may be required to pay spousal support. The court treats common law relationships and married couples the same for purposes of spousal support. A common law relationship exists when two people, of the same or opposite sex, have lived together for at least three years or are the parents of a child together.

"My spouse has remarried (or is living common law with a new partner). Do I still have to pay spousal support?"
Possibly. Just because your spouse lives with someone else, does not automatically mean that spousal support ends. It really depends on the individual circumstances of your case.

"My spouse earns $100,000 per year and I earn $20,000. We have 2 kids and have been married 15 years. How much spousal support would I get?"
This is a common type of question that I am asked. You probably would be entitled to some spousal support. However, based on this information alone, no Canadian family law lawyer can give you an estimate of the amount or duration of spousal support to which you would be entitled. You really need to schedule a consultation with a divorce lawyer in Canada to get an answer to a question like this.


Obtained Spousal Support
A client came to Behrendt Law Chambers to represent her in a divorce against her self-employed husband. Her husband refused to pay her spousal support, claiming that his business was not earning much money. We managed to show that his business was earning more than he claimed and obtained spousal support for his client.

Defended Spousal Support Payor
This is an era of record high spousal support awards. In one recent case, a judge awarded 60% of the family income to go to the wife as combined spousal support and child support for 2 children.
Nowadays judges don’t ask whether there is an entitlement to spousal support, this is assumed. The judges only ask “how much spousal support?” Behrendt Law Chambers has represented many spousal support payors, and successfully minimized the amount of spousal support they needed to pay. Given that the amount of spousal support awarded is such a grey area of family law, this is one area in which a good lawyer can make a difference in your case.

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