Everything You Need to Know About Spousal Support

July 22, 2021 Blog No Comments »

If you’re going through a separation or divorce, the term spousal support may have been brought up a few times. It’s common not to know what this term means, who gets it or for how long. If you have questions about spousal support (either if you’ll have to provide it or if you’ll be the one receiving it), here’s more information, so you’re a little more prepared.

Who is eligible for spousal support?

Despite what some people may have heard, support is not an automatic right when a marriage is dissolved. The Supreme Court, as of 1999, gives three reasons why someone may be eligible to receive this kind of support:

  • If extreme hardship is experienced, or one spouse has lost income opportunities due to this marriage/relationship itself or its breakdown.
  • To satisfy a contractual agreement (could be a prenuptial agreement) where both parties agreed to some kind of support.
  • To assist a spouse in need, when one spouse has the ability and capacity to pay.

To summarize, the spouse receiving the support must prove they either need the compensation or must produce a legally binding contract that obligates the other to pay.

How is it calculated?

This is probably the biggest concern—especially for those who need to pay it. There isn’t a definitive answer as to how much a person must pay in spousal support, but rather it’s a calculation based on a number of factors.

The guidelines for this calculation are mostly based on the length of the marriage or cohabitation for common-law relationships. There is also one formula for calculating it when there are dependent children involved and another for when there are no children. The guidelines give a range of suggested support, but the court does have the authority to deviate from these amounts should a specific case warrant it. Additionally, couples could negotiate a lump sum payout (like if a marital home is being sold) instead of monthly payments if both sides agree on it.

Can I change the support payments?

We all know that life changes pretty quickly. If your income changes drastically—such as with a job loss—your financial situation could become strained, and you may not be able to make the support payments as well as fulfill your other financial obligations.

You can change your support obligation by filing a Motion to Change, and that can happen in one of two ways. Either with Motion to Change with Consent, meaning your spouse consents and agrees to the change; or with a Motion to Change without Consent because your spouse doesn’t agree to what you’re asking to change.

It’s important to note that you will have to provide proof that there has been a material change in your situation, enough to warrant a variation from the previously agreed upon support amount. It will be up to the Court’s discretion to determine if a change is warranted.

Are support payments taxable?

The short answer is yes. In Canada, support payments have tax implications as long as they are part of a written agreement. The person paying the support will get a tax deduction for the amount of money they pay out in a year. The spouse receiving the payments will need to claim them as income when they file their taxes.

Contact Marcy Segal today

If you are going through a separation or divorce, understanding the ins and outs of spousal support can be confusing. If you have questions or would like help navigating your divorce, I am here to help. Contact me today to schedule an appointment.

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