Going through a divorce or separation is a trying experience, it takes a lot of your attention and energy while you are also dealing with a myriad of emotions. Every marriage and family unit have different circumstances, so when trying to navigate ​family law​ and how it pertains to your situation it can easily get a little chaotic and overwhelming.

Spousal support is one of the areas that can be frustrating and difficult to understand. There is no easy way to know if you will be entitled to receive support, or if you will be responsible for providing support to your former spouse. Ontario law stipulates that couples that are either legally married or are in a common law relationship are engaged in a financial partnership at the same time. In the case of a separation or divorce, the individual that was earning the higher income may be required to fully or partially support the spouse that was earning the lower income. The support payments are intended to help the receiving spouse maintain their standard of living until they are able to maintain it on their own.

Individual income is not the only factor that is considered when it comes to granting spousal support, other factors that are looked at include the length of the relationship, the age of both individuals at the time of the separation, the roles and responsibilities each person took on during the relationship, the ability for the individual receiving the support to become self-reliant, and the ability of the paying individual to continue to make payments.

In Ontario, there is no time limit on requesting spousal support. If one of the spouses feels as if they are disadvantaged, they may still be able to ask to receive support payments, even if the divorce is finalized. However, the amount of time that has gone by since the end of the relationship may impact your spousal support issue….time is of the essence more often than none when it comes to Family Law.

In the case where spousal support is granted, the amount to be paid and for how long is also based on several factors. Circumstances that may have caused one spouse financial hardship due to a decision that was made in the interest of the family unit are looked at. For example, if one spouse left their job to stay home and look after children or because they had to relocate due to an opportunity for the other partner to advance their career. These scenarios are looked at as a financial sacrifice and are accounted for in the calculation. In many cases the courts and family law professionals will reference the ​Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines​ ​to help calculate spousal support. These Guidelines are a Mathematical formula designed to deal specifically with the amount and duration of Spousal Support.

Once spousal support is ordered by the court or agreed upon by both parties, the details must be adhered to unless both parties agree to change the agreement or the court amends the order. For the court to change the order there must be a significant change in the circumstances of one of the parties. For example, if the individual receiving the support payments receives a promotion or finds a new job that pays more than their previous position, the individual paying the support may be entitled to reduce their payments. In the case where the individual that is paying support is no longer able to make the payments due to legitimately losing their job, they can ask the court to reassess the support amount. However, not all changes in circumstances will lead the court to change the terms of the spousal support.

Often one of the ex-spouses will be required to pay both child support and spousal support, in the case where an individual is not able to make both their child support payments and their spousal support payments, the courts prioritize the child support payments over the spousal support owed. The Guidelines take into consideration both child and spousal support obligations, when calculating.

We strongly recommend you let us advise you regarding the following commonly asked Spousal Support questions:

  • What is spousal support?
  • How’s it going to work when I’m already paying (or receiving) child support?
  • Can I receive spousal support? how much and for how long?
  • I’m terrified of math! I need help using the guidelines….
  • Will I have to pay my ex spousal support? how much and for how long?
  • I want to make a change to my support payments (paid/received)…how do I do that?
  • My ex won’t pay me what we agreed! What can I do about that?

At AGS Law we offer comprehensive family law services in Barrie and South Eastern Ontario. If you are currently going through a separation and have questions about possible spousal support entitlement or payments or if you are already paying spousal support and believe the conditions of your order should be adjusted due to changes in circumstances, give us a call today 705-735-0003 and let us help you.