Understanding Spousal Support in Canada

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Spousal support is the money or alimony given by one spouse to the other after the relationship ends in a divorce or separation. One spouse is subjected to provide a spousal support only if the spouse seeking support proves that he or she is permitted to receive a certain amount regardless of their relationship status – married or unmarried.

Claiming Spousal Support

Qualifying as a ‘spouse’ is crucial to seek spousal support. Spouses are:

  • People who are married.
  • People living in marriage-like-relationship for at least two years.
  • People who have lived in a marriage-like relationship and have a child together.

If one spouse is entitled for spousal support, the amount and division of assets depend on the circumstances of the couple.

Getting Spousal Support

Generally, in a separation agreement, spousal support is demanded. But if the spouse refuses to do so, a court can order spouse for providing spousal support.

Under federal Divorce Act and the Family Law Act, the married couples are entitled to demand for spousal support. Unmarried spouses can seek assistance from Family Law Act for that, and they need to claim within two years of separation or divorce. The courts have their own predefined rules and procedures that married and unmarried spouses must follow to obtain spousal support. Professional family lawyers can help you in getting spousal support easily.

Interim and Final Support Orders

After separation, one of the two spouses can start court proceedings seeking an order including spousal support, child support and divorce. Spouses require ‘interim’ orders for spousal support as it may take around one year to bring the case to a trial. Meanwhile ‘interim’ orders would provide spouse a temporary support until the next interim order or dismissing of the case. Final orders are permanent and passed by the judge following trial or with the settlement between the parties.

Spousal Support Order

The court considers the following factors before passing spousal support order:

  • Length of relationship.
  • Performance of spouses during relationship.
  • Financial status during child care.
  • Financial status of spouses during relationship and after separation;
  • Self support ability of either spouse.

If one spouse seemed to support the other during relationship, he/she may be required to do so after separation. On the contrary, if the spouses were financially independent during and after relationship, neither will be entitled to receive spousal support.

Compensatory Spousal Support

Though a spouse is financially independent but yet he/she can be entitled for ‘compensatory spousal support’ if:

  • A spouse bears financial loss due to the decisions including leaving a job to raise children.
  • Moves to new town after separation.

Spousal Support Amount Determination

There are certain ‘Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines’ that determines the payable spousal support amount once the spouse is entitled for spousal support. The amount can be either determined by the court or by mutual consent of both parties. Advisory guidelines rely on mathematical formulas to calculate amount and duration of spousal support. The spousal amount determination is a complex process and only a certified family lawyer can access the information required for amount assessment.

Disclosure of Finances is Crucial

Spousal support requires complete disclosure of financial facts and figures of both the spouses. It is crucial for making the spousal support decision. Both parties need to present all the statements declaring their finances, including tangible and intangible assets. It is recommended to hire a professional lawyer to guide you throughout the process.

Side note: Spouses are required to disclose their financial facts again if there are some changes in their financial status even after the final support order.

Tax Consequences

Spousal support payments are taxable as they are considered as an income source of the spouse receiving the support. The payable amount is deducted from taxable income of the spouse paying for spousal support.

The spousal support payments paid on a periodic basis follow the written agreement or court order, and are taxable and deductible. Other kinds of payments including payments to landlords or for other services are neither taxable nor deductible.

Spousal Support Duration

The law encourages spouses to become self-sufficient if possible. Court can limit the support period to a certain length or may order for support until a spouse retires. The reason for limiting the support is to make the spouse self-dependent by completing job training or getting into some other work.

Spousal support is also determined by the length of the marriage. Court understands that for older person it would be hard to find a job. In such cases, the spousal support is entitled for indefinite period of time.

What If A Spouse Refuses To Pay Spousal Support Alimony?

If your spouse refuses to pay spousal support, there are certain programs that help you in getting your support payments. They would make sure you receive the payments that you are entitled to periodically, without any delays.


After division of assets, the following points are considered for spousal support by the court:

  • Amount and duration of spousal support.
  • The nature of spousal support – dynamic or static.
  • Need of support.
  • Ability to pay.
  • Length of marriage.
  • Spouses’ age and health.
  • Functions during relationship.
  • Standard of living.
  • Alimony is taxable to receiving spouse and deductible to payable spouse.
  • Federal and provincial laws for spousal support.

The whole process is quite complicated. It is advisable to consult a professional family lawyer to resolve all your spousal support issues.

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