Wondering how spousal support works in Canada?
Today, our experts explain what, exactly, spousal support is, who’s entitled to it, and the different factors that affect how spousal support is calculated in Alberta.
Let’s face it.
Divorce is hard.
When it comes to navigating all of the considerations involved with divorce, there’s no question that it can quickly become mentally, emotionally and financially overwhelming.
Spousal support, in particular, can often be especially difficult because there are so many variables that determine whether it’s necessary, who pays it and how much.
Looking to clear the air on spousal support in Alberta?
Let’s dive in…
What is spousal support?
Who is entitled to spousal support?
How is spousal support calculated?
How long is spousal support paid?
What is Spousal Support?
Spousal support, often also known as alimony, is financial support provided to one former spouse from another once a marriage or Adult Interdependent Relationship (or “common law” relationship) ends.
Because a married couple essentially operates as a team, in that they often work together to earn income and manage the household, there are certain financial advantages that they also enjoy.
Spousal support, as per Canada’s Divorce Act, aims to help even some of the financial disparity between partners once they have chosen to separate or divorce.
This financial support is provided by the individual with higher income to the individual with lower income after a separation or divorce in order to help them cover their cost of living.
When it comes to spousal support in Alberta, there are three main questions that need to be answered:
- Entitlement – Who should be entitled to receive – or, who ‘deserves’ – spousal support?
- Amount – How much spousal support should be paid?
- Duration – For how long should spousal support be paid?
Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Who is entitled to spousal support in Alberta?
When the decision is being made by the court to decide whether or not spousal support will be awarded to one of the spouses, there are a number of factors that a judge will evaluate.
Because there is no hard and fast rule, having an experienced family law lawyer who understands Alberta’s laws and can present your unique case and situation in the best possible way is incredibly important.
How is spousal support calculated in Alberta?
While judges that are deciding on the amount of spousal support that will be awarded do have a set of guidelines to follow, these guidelines are not legally binding.
In Alberta, spousal support is calculated based upon a number of factors, including but not limited to:
- the financial means and needs of both spouses;
- the length of the marriage;
- the roles of each spouse during their marriage;
- the effect of those roles and the breakdown of the marriage on both spouses’ current financial positions;
- the care of the children;
- the goal of encouraging a spouse who receives support to be self-sufficient in a reasonable period of time
- any orders, agreements or arrangements already made about spousal support.
When evaluating the “financial means and needs of both spouses,” each person’s income and expenses will be considered. For example, when both parties have a fairly similar income, and neither has any special expense considerations (such as large, regular medical costs), spousal support likely won’t even enter the equation.
Generally speaking, the larger the income gap, the more likely the higher-earning party will have to pay spousal support.
Mitigating factors might include one party moving in with a new partner with a high income, or a change of job.
Similarly, the court will also look at how your income was affected by your marriage.
In the instance that one partner put their career on hold to care for the home and children full-time, they are likely to receive spousal support as the marriage caused a direct loss of income.
How long can a person get spousal support in Alberta?
When it comes to the duration of spousal support in Alberta, the key consideration is often the length of time the spouses lived together.
The longer the marriage, relationship or cohabitation was, the longer the spousal support order will often be.
That being said, there are also often other factors that are taken into consideration.
For example, if the spouse who has been ordered to pay spousal support loses their job and is no longer able to pay, the court may decide that the order should be changed.
Final Thoughts on Spousal Support
At the end of the day, navigating the legal waters of spousal support in Alberta is an endeavour best handled by an experienced family law lawyer who is able to bring their unique strategy and insight to the table.
We’d love to help. McGlashan & Company is conveniently located just south of Edmonton’s historic Whyte Avenue and our compassionate team of lawyers would love to provide the legal guidance you need and deserve.