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Who Can Ask for Spousal Support and How is it Calculated?

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Spousal support is a complicated area of family law. Unlike child support, spousal support is not an automatic right when a marriage ends. There is a two-step process to proving a claim for spousal support. The first step is to determine if you are entitled to it. If you are a spouse who is entitled to ask for spousal support, the second step is to determine how much you should receive and for how long. Let’s have a look at the steps in more detail.


Who can ask for spousal support?

Spousal support, which is also known as “alimony” or “spousal maintenance,” is paid by one spouse to the other after separation. Only certain types of relationships can give rise to spousal support obligations. You are eligible to ask for it:

  • At the end of a marriage;

  • At the end of a common-law relationship (that is, where you and your partner lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years); or

  • At the end of a marriage-like relationship that lasted for less than two years if you had a child together.


Who is entitled to spousal support?

If your relationship was one of the types set out above, you are eligible to make a claim for spousal support. But remember, it is not an automatic right. The first step in a spousal support claim is to prove you are entitled to support. A spouse seeking support must establish entitlement on one or more of the following grounds:

  • Compensatory: to recognize hardship or opportunities lost during the marriage or on its breakdown. This may include one spouse’s time out of the workforce to raise children, or a move to further one spouse’s career to the detriment of the other spouse’s career.

  • Needs-based or non-compensatory: to assist a spouse who has financial need where the other spouse has the capacity to pay.

  • Contractual: for example, a prenuptial agreement, marriage contract, or separation agreement which states that one spouse is entitled to spousal maintenance at the end of the relationship.


When determining entitlement to spousal support, the court will look at a number of factors, including child care and household responsibilities, financial dependency during the relationship, economic consequences that arise from the breakdown of the relationship, relative standards of living, and the ability of a spouse to be self-sufficient (e.g. will a spouse have difficulty supporting himself or herself after time away from the workforce to raise children?).


How is spousal support calculated?

Once a spouse has proved entitlement to spousal support, the next step is to calculate an amount that is fair and its duration (that is, for how long support will be paid). Duration of support may be for a set period of time or it may be indefinite, particularly if the marriage was long and the spouse’s roles were traditional. The circumstances of both spouses must be examined at this step, and consideration should be given to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. The Guidelines set out suggested ranges for amount and duration of support based on factors such as the length of the relationship, the roles each spouse played during the relationship, and whether there are children of the marriage. Other important factors in calculating amount and duration are the spouses’ relative financial situations and whether the spouse seeking support needs help to become self-supporting (e.g. retraining or education). Once spousal support has been calculated, it must be decided whether it will be paid periodically (for example, a certain amount each month) or in a single lump sum payment. There are significant tax implications of periodic vs. lump sum spousal support payments—we highly recommend getting advice from a divorce lawyer.


Prince George’s Dick Byl is here to help with your spousal support claim

You want to protect your right to spousal support and ensure that you leave the marriage on the best financial terms possible. For that, you should get advice from an experienced divorce lawyer. Prince George’s Dick Byl Law Corporation provides trusted legal advice and handles all aspects of family law. We offer flexible legal consultation, customized solutions and work diligently to ensure that our clients receive an outcome that is fair. Call us today at 250-564-3400 or toll-free at 1-800-835-0088 or use our eForm to get in touch with our Prince George family law office.


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