Spousal Support in CanadaSection 15.2

Spousal Support in CanadaSection 15.2

Not all marriages last happily ever after. Many couples experience a crisis resulting in a divorce.

When the divorce dispute arises, one of the central issues is dealing with spousal support.

What is a Spousal Support?

The Divorce Act regulates the process of divorce and all issues related to marriage dissolving, including spousal support.

Section 15.2 of the Divorce Act defines spousal support as a sum of money one spouse pays or secures to the other spouse for their support after separation or divorce. Also known as alimony or maintenance, spousal support can take the form of monthly or lump sum payments.

In Canada, spousal support aims at fulfilling a specific purpose. The Court orders one spouse to pay alimony to another if they sacrificed their earning ability during the marriage. In other words, the spouse who decided to stay home and miss career opportunities for the benefit of their partner can seek and receive spousal support provided they meet other requirements. Furthermore, the spouse who takes over the care of children, including their education and upbringing, can ask for alimony in Canada. Finally, if a spouse is in a dire financial situation following a divorce, they can also file for maintenance under Canadian law.

Who is Eligible?

Under the Divorce Act, both spouses can file for spousal support after divorce. In practice, a lower-income spouse usually asks for alimony. In determining whether or not to grant spousal support, judges consider various circumstances.

The financial situation of each spouse is decisive. Depending on their income following divorce, spouses can find themselves in a different position. Their needs can also be dissimilar. Other personal circumstances can further affect the decision regarding spousal support.

Next, the judge will consider the marriage length and the roles of each spouse. Although spouses in long-lasting marriages have greater chances of receiving alimony, that is not a general rule.

Many wives spend time raising the children while their spouses pursue careers. Staying home and away from the labour market affects their earning capability, which is why the Court looks at the mother’s role with special attention.

Because spouses can arrange spousal support with an agreement, or there might exist a previous court order dealing with alimony – these arrangements can determine the eligibility for receiving spousal support.

Last but not least, the Divorce Act explicitly stipulates that the Court cannot consider spousal misconduct as a reason to reject an application for a spousal support order.

Calculating the Spousal Support

In Canada, Courts rely on the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines in calculating the amount of alimony. Many factors determine an appropriate amount, so these guidelines are irreplaceable tools judges use in each case to calculate fair spousal support. The Guidelines are publicly available, meaning that anyone can use them. However, consulting an experienced support lawyer such as Jack Haller is always a better option.

Spousal Agreement

Spousal Support vs. Child Support

If you already pay child support, you probably wonder if you should pay spousal support simultaneously.

Section 15.3 (1) of the Divorce Act explicitly prioritizes child support, instructing the Court to reject the application for spousal support filed with the application for a child support order. 

That applies when a spouse does not have enough money to pay child and spousal support. The Court will give priority to paying child support.

Duration of Spousal Support

There are multiple factors determining the length of spousal support. It depends on the duration of the marriage, the age of the spouses, and other circumstances. The Court Order or an agreement can specify a date until the support lasts or determine its duration until the situation is changed.

The spouse obliged to pay alimony must continue to do so until one of the following occurs:

  1. The Court changed the order regarding the end of the payment period. The Court will change order when a change in circumstances occurs. The spouse paying the alimony may lose their job and cannot pay the support. Considering that, the Court can end the spousal support.
  2. Spouses changed the agreement dealing with spousal support duration. If spouses arrange the alimony payment consensually, they can change it at any time ending the support.
  3. The circumstances (defined in the court order or an agreement) have changed. In this example, the Court Order or an agreement explicitly describes the situation that (if it occurs) causes the payment to stop.

Consult an Expert

Jack Haller is an experienced Moncton family law lawyer with 18 years of court litigation experience.

Knowing the nuances of the spousal support system in Canada, Mr. Haller can help you deal with your case. Whether you file an application for alimony or want to end your obligation due to changed circumstances, Jack Haller is here to help.

Reach out today to schedule your appointment. Mr. Haller is available at his downtown office or via telephone or email. Speaking English, French, and Spanish, Mr. Haller is at your disposal regardless of your language and cultural background.