Spousal support is money paid by one spouse to another spouse upon the breakdown of a relationship. Spousal support is equally applicable to both married and common law spouses.
The purpose of spousal support is to recognize and compensate a spouse for the contributions they have made to a relationship and/or relieve any financial hardship they might face as a result of the breakdown of the relationship.
In many relationships, it is common for one spouse to be financially dependent on the other. As a result, when the relationship ends they find themselves in a vulnerable position. To determine if this dependency is present, one must consider the roles of the parties during the relationship and the financial position they are each in at the end of a relationship.
Once it has been determined that spousal support must be paid, there are a number of factors that are considered in determining how much should be paid and for how long. These factors include the length of the relationship, the spouse's respective ages, whether or not there are children, the roles they played during the relationship and their living costs. Although there is no set formula to determine the exact amount and duration of spousal support, there are guidelines, referred to as the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, which provides ranges for both. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines calculates the ranges taking into account the factors set out above. Although the courts are not required to abide by the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, they are required to take them into account when deciding on the issue of spousal support.
Spousal support is generally paid on a monthly basis and is taxable income to the recipient and tax deductible for the spouse paying support. In some instances spousal support can be paid by way of one time non-taxable lump sum payment. The facts of each case determines which option is more advantageous. Spousal support, including the amount and the duration, can be ordered by a court or agreed to by the parties by way of a separation agreement.