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Family Law

Spousal Support


Married spouses and common-law couples who have cohabitated for three of more years, or common law couples who have had a child together may have spousal support rights and obligations on separation and/or death. Sometimes people refer to spousal support by its former terminology, “alimony”. Spousal support is not an automatic right associated with a breakdown of a relationship and depends on a variety of factors. Spousal support is an amount of money that one spouse pays to the other, often for a defined period. Usually, the spouse with the higher income makes payments to the spouse with lower income. The amount of money that a spouse pays, and for how long support has to be paid, depends on the circumstances of the relationship. 

  Money, calculations, pen and bills






The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines.


Not every couple who is separating will have a spouse who is required to pay spousal support. Clients often ask our lawyers, "I understand that I have to support my children, but why do I have to support my ex-spouse?" Entitlement to spousal support is not automatic and may arise either from a marriage or from a common-law relationship where there is an income discrepancy. Entitlement to support is based on a compensatory, non-compensatory, or contractual basis for support. It is discretionary and determined in consultation with the Department of Justice’s Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG), which provide guidelines and recommendations for support. While these guidelines attempt to bring some stability and predictability to the area, they are full of exceptions and exclusions. Spousal support can apply to both married spouses and those in a common-law relationship or where the parties have a child and a relationship of some permanence. While the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines is not binding on the court to apply, a failure to address them in a decision of the court is a reason for review or appeal. 


The spouse seeking spousal support must prove that they are entitled to receive support on either a compensatory basis, non-compensatory basis, and/or contractual basis. Factors such as child support, the length of the relationship, earning potential, and income levels are all considered by the court to determine the range and duration of spousal support. Spousal support can also be payable in lump sum rather than in periodic payments. Spousal support is often paid for an "indefinite" period, but that does not mean the same thing as "permanent" or "infinite". Our team of highly skilled Kitchener family law lawyers can help you determine how to calculate whether you are required to pay spousal support to your spouse, or alternatively, if you are entitled to receive spousal support from your spouse.


While the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines can provide a tool to assist you with spousal support calculations, spouses must consider many factors when negotiating an amount of support that includes:

  • Ability to become self-sufficient

  • Age

  • Anticipated changes in circumstances, such as remarriage, loss of income and employment, and retirement

  • Assets

  • Income

  • Standards of living

These factors not only help to define the value of support, but they can also assist in determining if a spouse is actually entitled to receive support. The court has made it clear that termination of support or time-limiting of spousal support is fact specific and is to be reviewed on a case basis. 


More information about the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines can be found on the Government of Canada, Department of Justice website or by speaking with a lawyer at our firm. 





Do you want to learn more about spousal support?


 For over 40 years, clients have trusted in our ability to explain more than simply their legal rights and obligations in a separation or a divorce. We focus on sustainable collaboration that leads to creative solutions and consensual dispute resolution. We are confident that you will appreciate our professionalism and personalized service.  To benefit from our knowledge and experience with respect to spousal support as part of your separation or divorce, please contact 519-884-0034 or send us an email. Many of our clients are referred to us by former and current clients, as well as by lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors. We serve clients in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Stratford, Hamilton, London and surrounding areas.



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Aubrey J.  Sherman

  Aubrey J.  Sherman