Spousal support is a big divorce “hot button.” Few people love the idea of writing a big monthly check to someone they no longer love. Spousal support can put a strain on the paying party’s finances.
So it’s no surprise that most people fight tooth and nail to keep it out of their divorce settlement.
Why does spousal support exist?
Before you start trying to get out of paying spousal support you should know what the purpose of support is, according to Canadian divorce laws.
The first is reason is to compensate a spouse who sacrifices their ability to earn income during a marriage. Homemakers with no work history can’t be expected to leap right into the job market without any training or experience. They did not make an income, yet you benefited from their services.
The second reason is to compensate a spouse for the ongoing care of children, over and above any child support obligation. This is especially necessary in cases where one spouse is extremely wealthy and is, due to the realities of their business obligations, rarely available for the children. In addition the courts do not like to subject the children to immediate vast disparities in standards of living which can put one spouse at a disadvantage.
The third is to help a spouse who is left in financial need arising from the breakdown of the marriage.
However, your spouse does have an obligation to become self-supporting while reasonable. They are supposed to use the time bought by spousal support to get on their feet however they can.
So now you know the courts are going to take a dim view of you trying to leave an economically disadvantaged spouse destitute. What does this mean for your options?
Negotiate it Away
The best way to avoid paying spousal support is to negotiate it away. If you can manage an amicable divorce settlement then you might be able to get your spouse to agree to do without spousal support.
This does mean you’ll have to give up something in return. You might, for example, have to give up a bigger share of the assets.
One method we often suggest is to offer a lump sum payment, if you have the means. This is a relief to the payee who won’t have to worry about chasing after you for the money and a relief to you because it’s a finite, one-and-done sum. The sum is usually smaller than the total sum you’d end up paying out in monthly alimony payments, too, though you and your attorney should compare the numbers before you make the offer.
You’ll know, because Canadian courts use formulas. Few people get lifetime support payments unless they were married for decades, or are advanced in years. Most people get ½ to 1 year of support for every year they were in the marriage.
However, this can also be a mistake. There are circumstances which will allow you to terminate or lower monthly support payments, but once you pay that lump sum you can never get that money back. Make absolutely sure you are consulting with your attorney about what the advantages and disadvantages of the lump sum payment actually look like.
If your spouse absolutely will not budge on support then make sure you have a clear end date in your divorce settlement. If that happens you’ll be able to stop paying the minute that date arrives. Try to at least negotiate or the ½ rule so you won’t have to pay for more than a few years.
Bring in an Expert
We like to bring in vocational rehabilitation specialists to interview your partner. This will create an analysis of your ex’s skills, education, work history, and potential career path. They may be able to determine that your spouse could support themself with ease given three years, instead of the 10 years your alimony calculation might cover.
This can be used as a point of negotiation as well. It might also reassure your spouse, who might be pushing hard for support because they’re scared. If they’ve been out of the workforce or underemployed for the sake of the kids for a very long time it’s natural for them to be worried about their ability to survive and pay bills.
You might even work together to determine what it would cost to retrain them and cover a support period that would let them pursue a degree or graduate degree, then gives them a year or two past that to find employment. After that you would agree to be done.
If your spouse sees that you’re trying to help them provide for their future they may be more likely to negotiate, and less likely to bring the matter to trial, where your situation almost always becomes less favorable. Courts rarely give you better terms than a negotiated agreement.
Pay Attention to What Your Spouse Does
If the court orders spousal support you might just be stuck until the end date listed on your court order. Yet if your spouse remarries you can easily petition the court to stop payments. This includes common law marriages and adult interdependent partnerships. Your spouse has a new partner and should no longer be relying on you.
You will need to get help from your attorney, who will need to file a motion to terminate spousal support.
Get Help Today
We can’t guarantee that we can get you out of paying spousal support entirely. We can guarantee that we’ll work with you to create options and a situation that you can live with.
We’ve helped thousands of Canadians do just that, and have even negotiated sticky high net worth divorces where millions of dollars were at stake.
We help clients in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. We’re known for being some of Canada’s savviest negotiators and toughest litigators.
Contact Merchant Law to get started today. We’re ready to help.