Angela Walker – October 2015
When a relationship breaks down, one spouse may need to provide the other spouse with spousal support if there is a difference in the spouses’ incomes. Unlike child support, there is no automatic right to receive spousal support. The recipient must first establish that he or she is entitled to receive support before determining how much support may be paid and for how long.
There are two main ways a spouse can establish entitlement: (1) to help meet budgetary needs to maintain a standard living that is somewhat similar to what was enjoyed during the marriage (non-compensatory support); and/or (2) to compensate the recipient for choices made during the marriage which had a financial impact to the recipient, such as leaving the workforce to raise children (compensatory support). In many cases, a recipient spouse may be entitled to receive spousal support for both reasons.
The following is a list of the some of the factors that are considered when assessing whether a spouse is entitled to support:
- Length of relationship: The longer the relationship, the more likely it is that an order for spousal support will be made.
- Difference in incomes: A large difference in incomes is sometimes enough to establish entitlement to spousal support so that the lower income earner has the ability to meet his or her budgetary needs.
- Roles assumed during the relationship: If one spouse has suffered a financial disadvantage by choosing not to work, to work part-time, to avoid taking promotions, or to work in a career with a lower income earning potential so that a benefit flowed to the family as whole (particularly if children are involved) than a claim for compensatory support is more likely.
- Dependence: A spouse may not be able to work because of sickness or disability in which case they are entirely dependent on the income earned by the other spouse and will need support.
- Age: Age can be a relevant factor as it can be more difficult for older individuals to enter the workforce or retrain.
Each case is unique. Spousal support is a complicated area of the law.