Spousal support is a high-conflict issue in most divorces. It tends to cause a great deal of anger, resentment, and fear.
The team at Merchant Law can help you navigate these issues. We help payees receive fair support amounts and help ensure that the ability of payors to pay isn’t overestimated.
We also help negotiate spousal support solutions that are fair and workable. We develop and deliver options so that spousal support becomes less painful. In some cases, we’ve also been successful at showing the courts why a claim for spousal support is invalid or inappropriate, or why a payor’s attempts to get out of paying spousal support is equally invalid or inappropriate.
In short, we offer solutions to spousal support problems, no matter how tough those problems may be.
Who can make a claim for spousal support?
In theory, either spouse may make a claim that they have a valid reason to receive spousal support. In practice, spousal support usually goes to the most economically disadvantaged spouse.
The claiming spouse must establish a grounds for their claim. The valid grounds for a spousal support claim fall into one of three categories.
- The first is compensatory support, which covers spouses who lose opportunities or suffer hardships as a result of the marriage breakdown.
- The second is contractual spousal support. You can receive this support if receiving this support was already built into an existing prenuptial agreement.
- The third is needs-based support. If one spouse has a demonstrable financial need and the other has a demonstrable ability to pay, then they can make a valid grounds for support.
The goal of spousal support is usually to ensure that a disadvantaged spouse can become financially independent and support themselves after a divorce.
What is the difference between spousal support and alimony?
Alimony is a temporary support payment paid during the divorce process. Often, it’s ordered as part of a set of temporary measures to keep the bills paid and the lights on until the divorce settlement is complete.
Spousal support is a long-term payment that is combined with child support to create one “maintenance” payment. This payment is enforced by British Columbia.
How long does spousal support last?
“Lifetime” spousal support is growing more and more rare here in Canada, and usually only applies to a gray divorce where spouses have been married for decades and are both at or near retirement age.
Instead, most support is awarded at a rate of ½ year to 1 year per year of marriage. Thus, if you have a 15 year marriage you could expect to pay support for anywhere from 7.5 years to 15 years.
How much is spousal support?
Spousal support is, first and foremost, a negotiable figure. The amount is not mandated by law, though the Federal Spousal Support Guidelines do offer insight into the formulae that the court will use if the decision is left up to them, as well as a starting point for negotiations. If one party is eligible for support, their lawyer is usually going to want to ensure that the amount that their client receives is at least somewhat comparable to the amount listed.
Any number of factors can be taken into account when setting the amount, including the role each partner played in the marriage, the amount of education or training each partner has, the career prospects each partner has, the partner’s current employment status, and the earning power of each partner.
There are also different formulas in use depending upon whether or not one of the partners is already paying child support to the other.
Spousal Support Options
Spousal support is a negotiable item. We can use this to your advantage as we help you craft a workable settlement with your ex.
Some alternative solutions include:
- Lump sum payments, as opposed to a monthly check.
- Offering more assets in return for avoiding spousal support.
- Offering a smaller monthly support check in return for a longer payment period.
- Offering a larger monthly support check in return for a shorter payment period.
Payees often like some of these options as well. For example, paying out spousal support in one lump sum means that they don’t have to worry about enforcement. They’ve got what they need, and they can use it as they see fit.
Spousal support is negotiable up until the minute you enter divorce litigation, at which point a judge will make decisions based on the strength of each person’s arguments and each lawyer’s skill at litigation. Whenever possible, we urge our clients to negotiate in good faith. Negotiation leaves some power in your hands, and tends to lead to better spousal support arrangements than litigation does.
Tell us your goals and concerns, and we’ll do our best to work out a solution.
Get Help Today
Founding partner Anthony Merchant is the Associate Editor of the Carswell Reports of Family Law. He’s also been published extensively in the Canadian Family Law Quarterly. He is a member of the Advisory Board for the Canadian Journal of Family Law, as well as of The Family Law Journal.
Many of our member lawyers have also been published in all of these prestigious journals.
Anthony Merchant combines this background with thousands of hours of practical case experience, as do all of our lawyers. In addition, most of our divorce lawyers have also worked in our real estate and business law divisions.
Most of our lawyers have 20 to 30 years of experience. And we work as a team, which means even our youngest family lawyers will have access to a wealth of experience and understanding that you’d be hard pressed to find at any other law firm. That’s why we’re confident in our ability to help you find a spousal support solution that will meet your needs.
Call (604) 394-2777 to schedule your case review and to get paired with your own dedicated family law lawyer.