How is spousal support decided?

If you are going through a divorce or separation, there are many important matters to consider. Spousal support may be one of them.

Spousal support, also referred to as alimony, refers to the legal obligation for a person to provide financial support to their spouse after separation or divorce. These payments can either be determined by the court based on federal spousal support guidelines or can be based on an agreement between the couple.

Spousal support provides a continuous stream of income, based on the length of the marriage or common-law relationship, to a spouse that doesn’t earn an income or one that earns significantly lower wages. Spousal support helps to prevent or limit the unfair economic effects arising from a divorce or separation. However, spousal support is not an automatic right after the breakdown of a marriage.

If the courts rule that a spouse is entitled to spousal support, a lump sum or specified monthly amount is paid to that individual. In Canada, the Federal Divorce Act, if you were married, or the Family Law Act, if you were in a common-law relationship, governs how support is determined.

There are three main objectives of spousal support:

  1. To compensate a spouse who sacrificed his or her ability to earn an income throughout the marriage;
  2. To compensate a spouse for the ongoing care of children outside of child support; and/or,
  3. To help a spouse in financial need arising from the dissolution of the marriage or common-law relationship.


You are eligible to apply for spousal support if your overall situation demonstrates a need based on the objectives outlined under the Divorce Act and/or the Family Law Act. The legislation recognizes that the responsibilities of child care and marriage may prevent one spouse from capitalizing on prime job opportunities that would help them to build a career or even from pursuing a career in the first place. Spousal support helps to limit the economic hardship that the spouse may face after separation. The Canadian Supreme Court has defined entitlement in three different ways; contractual support, compensatory support, and non-compensatory support.

Contractual support refers to a situation in which there is a pre-existing agreement, for example, a prenuptial agreement that states one spouse should receive support payments. Once this agreement exists, the courts will expect each spouse to honour their contractual obligations.

Compensatory support refers to support that is given to a spouse who has forgone a career, education, or earning opportunities as a result of the role they played in the marriage. The rationale behind compensatory support is that one spouse should not bear a disproportionate financial burden because of the role they adopted in the relationship.

Non-compensatory support refers to support that is paid as a result of one spouse experiencing significant economic hardship as a result of the divorce or separation. The premise behind non-compensatory support is that one spouse should not be subject to a reduction in their standard of living because of the collapse of the relationship.

You must also keep in mind that there are certain time limits in which you must bring your claim for spousal support so, if you are eligible, then you should proceed with making your claim early.

How much should be paid?

Once eligibility has been determined, the next step is figuring out the amount of spousal support that should be paid. Many factors are considered in calculating spousal support. These factors include both spouses’ assets, income, ages, health, the standard of living, ability to be financially self-sufficient, and the length of the marriage. A judge will review all these factors in conjunction with the guidelines and will place an emphasis on how the divorce or separation will affect each party financially and then determine support payments.

Duration of spousal support payments

The duration of spousal support will depend on many factors, however, the spousal support guidelines are a good initial indicator to determine the length of time that support will need to be paid. The guidelines take into account the age of each party, the length of the marriage or common-law relationship, if there are children, and the parties’ incomes.

Are you looking for a spousal support lawyer in Surrey?

If you are searching for a spousal support lawyer in Surrey, contact us at Law Boutique LLP.

Our Surrey divorce lawyer will handle every aspect of your case to ensure the best possible outcome.

Call or visit our website to schedule a free initial 15-minute consultation today.

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