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Common Legal Issues Regarding Spousal Support & Maintenance

Spousal support is a sum of money that one partner pays to the other in intervals in order to help make up for a difference in income. In short, if one partner is the "breadwinner" of the family while the other stays home to care for children, the court may award the non-working parent spousal support to prevent financial instability. Legal issues often arise over spousal support and maintenance, too. Here are some of the most common.

Do You Have to Pay/Qualify for Spousal Support?

To answer this briefly, if you made significantly more money than your partner did during your marriage, you will usually have to pay spousal support. Along those lines, if your partner made much more money than you did, you will usually qualify for spousal support. Although many people believe that spousal misconduct has an influence on these payments, it does not. Canada has a no-fault divorce law, so regardless of the reasons why the marriage ended, a spouse's legal obligation to support the other spouse after a divorce does not change.

How Much Will You Pay/Get?

Canadian courts utilize a very complex equation in determining the amount of spousal support paid or received, but several factors influence this, as well. A judge will look at things like assets, incomes, ages, length of marriage, the contribution each spouse made to the other's career, overall health, self-sufficiency, and more when it comes to determining the amount of spousal support payments.

How Long Will You Pay/Receive Spousal Support?

If you were involved in a long-term relationship, and especially if there are children involved, the court does not usually put a limit on the length of time that you pay or receive support. For the most part, you should simply continue to pay or receive the support until something changes. At this point, go back to court and petition to stop (or amend) the payments. Bear in mind that if you are the recipient of spousal support and you do not report financial gains, but those financial gains come out later in court, you may be required to pay part of what you received back to your spouse.

Does Spousal Support affect Child Support?

When a spouse files for child support and spousal support at the same time, the courts always give preference to child support. As an example, if one spouse is already paying child support to the other, the judge will first determine how a requirement to pay spousal support would affect that spouse's ability to pay child support. At this point, if the judge determines that the partner paying child support is financially stable enough, and that the recipient of that support is not financially stable, then the court may rule that the financially stable spouse must pay both child and spousal support at the same time.

As you can see, the laws governing spousal support in Canada are quite complex. If you have questions or concerns, contact your family lawyer for more information. They can help you make certain that rulings are fair and that you are able to financially support yourself from either side.