Spousal Maintenance Lawyer in Toronto
Spousal support or spousal maintenance is money one spouse may be required to pay to the other spouse for financial support following a separation or divorce. While spousal support is generally paid on a monthly basis, it can be paid in one lump sum. There are different tax implications depending on which method of payment. A spouse could be entitled to receive spousal support for a number of reasons but is expected to become self-supporting when reasonable. Provincial or territorial laws set forth the rules for unmarried couples in a common-law relationship, while the federal Divorce Act sets forth the divorce rules for married couples.
Under the Divorce Act, when a substantial difference between the spouses’ incomes exists, spousal support is more likely to be paid to the lower-earning spouse, although there are exceptions. Whether a common-law spouse is entitled to support could also depend on how long the couple cohabited prior to their separation. Contacting the Musson Law Firm can be an important first step when you are considering ending your relationship. We understand that navigating a divorce can be both emotional and confusing. We will work with you to develop a strategic plan that will see you through this difficult time, allowing you to move forward and successfully transition into the next phase of your life.
Will I Be Required to Pay Spousal Support—or Am I Entitled to Spousal Support?
Whether you will be required to pay spousal support or whether you are entitled to receive spousal support will depend on a number of factors. Under the Divorce Act, the primary purposes of spousal support are:
- Compensation for a spouse who has sacrificed his or her ability to earn income during the marriage, due to lost educational or career opportunities;
- Compensation for a spouse who exhibits significant financial need as a direct result of the breakdown of the marriage, and
- Compensation for a spouse who continues to care for the children of the marriage.
As noted, spousal support is generally requested by the spouse with the lower income. In each case, a number of factors are considered when determining whether spousal support is appropriate, such as:
- The financial circumstances of each spouse;
- The financial needs of each spouse;
- The financial means of each spouse;
- The length of the marriage or the length of time the couple has lived together;
- Each spouse’s role in the marriage;
- How the roles of each spouse in the marriage affected their current financial situation;
- How the breakdown of the marriage affected each spouse’s current financial situation;
- The role and responsibilities each spouse will have in the ongoing care of the children, and
- Whether there are prior orders, agreements, or arrangements regarding spousal support already made.
When Spousal Support is Awarded, How Is It Calculated?
The calculation of spousal support can be extremely complex, with many factors considered when determining an appropriate amount. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are often used by Canadian courts and family law lawyers when calculating spousal support, however, it is important to remember that these guidelines are just that—guidelines, rather than laws. For a former spouse to receive spousal support, he or she must show entitlement for that support. There are three separate entitlements to spousal support:
- Contractual Support is awarded when a marriage contract, cohabitation, separation, or another type of agreement exists, which specifies that one spouse will receive support in the event of a breakdown of the relationship.
- Compensatory Support is often awarded when one spouse has given up earning opportunities, educational opportunities, or career opportunities because of their role in the relationship. The goal with compensatory support is to prevent one spouse from bearing a disproportionate financial burden as a result of the marital role.
- Non-compensatory Support may be awarded when one spouse will experience substantial economic hardship as a direct result of the end of the relationship.
Amount and Duration of Spousal Support
Once it is determined that a spouse is entitled to receive spousal support, the amount and duration of that support are determined. While the court has discretion over the amount, it is generally calculated by using the former incomes of each spouse and the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. The amount of income disparity, the roles of each spouse during the marriage, the earning potential of each spouse, the attempts by each spouse to become self-sufficient, and other extenuating circumstances will be considered when determining the amount of spousal support.
The duration of the spousal support is generally tied to the length of the relationship; a relationship of fewer than 20 years usually results in a duration of 0.5 to 1.0 times the number of years of the relationship. A long-term relationship of more than 20 years could result in an indefinite term of spousal support, which can be reviewed when certain events occur. Spousal support can be paid in one lump sum, depending on the circumstances, however, while monthly support is tax-deductible for the paying spouse, a lump sum is not, so taxes are a factor when deciding on duration.
Help with Your Spousal Support from Musson Law
Spousal support can seem like an overwhelming, confusing part of a divorce; an experienced divorce lawyer from Musson Law can help clarify whether you or your spouse are entitled to receive spousal support, and what that support should look like. At Musson Law, we help our clients move forward in their lives when divorce leaves them reeling. We have spent more than 15 years successfully negotiating settlements without court intervention, even when challenging dynamics are present. Contact Musson Law today; we are ready to help you through this difficult time in your life.