This issue has changed markedly during the over twenty years that I have been practicing. There are four issues to spousal support, standing, entitlement, quantum and duration.

First, do you get to claim spousal support? Do you have standing to make the claim?

  • If you were married and you separate then you can make a claim for spousal support. Whether you are successful in your claim is a different question but you get to make the claim.
  • If you were not married, then if you cohabited for three years you can make a claim for spousal support.
  • If you were not married and did not cohabit for three years but have children together you can make a claim for spousal support.

Second, is a party entitled to spousal support?

When I first started practising over twenty years ago the law was clear that there had to be a causal connection between a spouse’s economic situation and the role adopted during the marriage. The classic situation was a couple falls in love while they are both in Teacher’s College. They get married and have children. Dad works as a teacher then a school administrator. Mom is at home with the children. They separate after a twenty-five year marriage. Dad is earning $150,000.00 per annum. Mom obtains employment as a supply teacher and earns $20,000.00 per annum. Most would say he has to pay her spousal support. Her lower income, and economic position, is as it is because of the role she adopted during the marriage.

There was a case called Bracklow from the Supreme Court of Canada that represented a change in spousal support. In one sentence the court said, "Sometimes need is enough". That is, if there is a breakdown of a relationship and one spouse earns more money than the other spouse perhaps spousal support is payable even though there is no causal connection because the lower earning spouse’s economic situation and the relationship.

Third, if there is standing and entitlement what is the quantum (or amount) of spousal support?

You can google the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines or the S.S.A.G.s. They are a very real factor in family law today. It is a mathematical formula that produces a range of spousal support depending on the age of the spouses, the incomes, the length of the relationship etc. I have software that runs this calculation.

Fourth, if there is standing, entitlement and the amount is known, how long does spousal support last?

The S.S.A.G.s address this issue also. However, this is still a grey area in the law.

Spousal support can be one of the most difficult areas of family law. If you have questions about this area give me a call to discuss. I offer a one-half hour free consultation by phone.