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Determining Spousal Support in Canada

One of the most contentious parts of a divorce is spousal support because it can be incredibly difficult for someone to send money to another person they are no longer married to. Paying child support is one thing, because your kids will always be your kids, but paying your spouse is a different thing entirely. The family law experts at Musson Law explain how the Canadian government determines whether or not spousal support is required and if so, how much has to be paid.Federal Divorce Act
In 1968, the Canadian government passed the federal Divorce Act, which set forth laws and guidelines for many aspects of divorce, including spousal support. These laws only apply to couples who have been legally married in Canada and not those who have common-law marriages or who are legally married and are separating, but not divorcing. In those cases, provincial or territorial laws are used to determine spousal support.
Specifically, in Quebec, common-law partners are not eligible for spousal support, but they may be in other provinces or territories. It may depend on how long the couple had been living together as a married couple before they separated. Often, provinces and territories have a rule that says couples have to live together as a married couple for at least two or three years before spousal support will be considered.
In many cases, spousal support is not awarded at all. Typically, it is only awarded when there is a large discrepancy between the spouses’ incomes when they separate. Even then, a judge may decide that the spouse with the lower income is not entitled to spousal support if they have significant assets or the discrepancy between the incomes cannot be traced to events that occurred during the marriage.
Factors Considered in Awarding Spousal Support
When determining whether or not spousal support should be paid in a divorce, the judge will look at various factors including:

The incomes of both spouses
The financial needs of both spouses
How long the couple was married
The roles and responsibilities of each spouse during the marriage
The effect that the roles and responsibilities of each spouse had on the discrepancy between the incomes 
The effect that the breakdown of the marriage had on each spouse’s financial situation
The care of any children
How much time it will take the spouse who receives support to become self-sufficient 
Any orders or agreements already in place for spousal support

The judge may also consider if spousal support would compensate the spouse who has the lower income for sacrificing earning power during the marriage, if it would compensate the spouse with the lower income for care they provide for any children, or if it would provide support for a spouse who is in financial need if the other spouse has the ability to pay.
The goal of spousal support is to only provide financial assistance until the spouse who is receiving it is self-sufficient and the judge will set a reasonable time frame for this to happen.
In Canada, even if you are ordered to pay spousal support, know that it won’t be forever. Once your spouse is able to support themselves, or if the judge determines they have had enough time to become self-sufficient, you won’t have to pay any additional support. But, you should contact a family law lawyer to help ensure you don’t pay any more than you have to from the start.

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