Spousal Support

Spousal Support

There are too many myths surrounding spousal support in Ontario. Get the true legal position and know your rights and obligations.

The dissolution of your marriage or common law relationship does not always remove all your commitments and responsibilities to your ex-partner. If your ex-partner relied on your income or you earn more than them, you may have to pay spousal support to help your ex-spouse get back on their feet. 

Spousal support, or alimony, is money one pays their ex-marital partner after separation or divorce. However, the fact you were married alone does not entitle one to spousal support. The court considers several factors to determine both the amount and whether or not one qualifies for spousal support.

Do you feel your ex-partner must pay or increase their spousal support? Do you feel there are reasonable grounds for a review of the spousal support you are currently paying?

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    Who is entitled to spousal support in Ontario?

    In Ontario spousal support is not mandatory. Where one feels they are entitled to the support they have the right to approach the courts, which will have discretion. However, the judge is generally guided by the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines.

    If your ex-spouse files a request for spousal support, they must prove they are entitled to it. They may demonstrate that the marriage itself or its break-up caused them a financial hardship. 

    Your ex-spouse may also have a valid case for spousal support if they lost an economic opportunity because of the decisions they made for the good of your marriage or the children. 

    For example, they may have left their job when you got promoted and had to move the family to a new city or country. In other cases, they may have given up their career to become a full-time housewife and caregiver for your children. 

    It’s not hard for an ex-spouse who was a fulltime housewife to argue that you prospered in your career because of their support and the stable home environment they provided for you and the children.

    If there is a contract between you two or a clause in your separation agreement that sets an obligation for you to support your spouse, they may also file for a spousal support order. 

    Where you feel you have a stronger claim for spousal support than the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines can accommodate, you will do well to seek the advice of a family law attorney that has experience with spousal support cases.

    How Much Do I Have To Pay In Spousal Support

    In determining the range of spousal support amounts, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines consider the length of marriage. If you cohabitated before your marriage was registered or throughout the duration of your union, the length of that cohabitation period will also be considered.

    There are two basic formulas used in Ontario to calculate spousal support: with child support and without child support. These formulas consider whether the support payor also pays child support. 

    Where there is no child support, the length of marriage and/or cohabitation has a significant effect on the amount of child support. Where one is also paying child support, the child support obligation is calculated first. As a consequence, if you are of limited means the spousal support amount may be severely diminished.

    How long will I have to pay spousal support?

    Among many other myths we hear is that spousal support stops when the recipient spouse remarries or cohabitates with a new partner. Though this is a significant development that may give cause for a review of the spousal support situation, some ex-spouses may still be entitled nonetheless. 

    Spousal support is case-specific. In some cases, precisely where the ‘rule of 65’ applies, one may be entitled to indefinite spousal support. In others, there may be no case for spousal support at all. 

    In terms of spousal support, what applies to another person does not necessarily apply to your case. To know whether you are entitled to spousal support or whether you should be paying it, talk to a spousal support lawyer and have them review your specific circumstances.

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