Nobody needs spousal support more than a house spouse who has sacrificed years of workforce participation to care for the kids. Yet obtaining spousal support is never guaranteed.
Our team is adept at dealing with highly contentious divorce issues, including spousal support. We know how to make a strong case for maximizing your support so that you can meet your expenses after your divorce.
Is spousal support mandatory in Alberta?
No. Spousal support guidelines exist, and divorce judges will usually follow them. But if your case goes to trial, the judge will award spousal support based on what the judge feels is fair. Judges usually follow the guidelines, but trials are unpredictable.
You generally are better off if you can get your spouse to agree to a spousal support settlement. During the settlement process spousal support is entirely negotiable. There is room to make concessions in some areas you don’t care as much about in order to get more support, or to enjoy support for a lot longer.
What determines spousal support in Alberta?
The judge considers a variety of factors:
- The length of the marriage.
- The responsibilities of each partner during the marriage.
- Any prenuptial agreement that might exist.
- Whether or not either partner has a legal obligation to support another person, including children.
- If either party is going to be living with someone else, how that other person contributes to their living expenses.
- Financial hardships that may be faced by a spouse due to the end of the marriage.
- What it will take for the stay at home Mom or payee spouse to become financially independent within a reasonable period of time.
- Fairly dividing child care costs above and beyond the cost of child support.
Federal Spousal Support guidelines do exist, but they are only guidelines and are only a starting point for negotiations. These formulas consider the length of the marriage, the age of each spouse, the presence of children, the income of each spouse, tax credits, and whether or not child support is being paid. They offer a “high end” amount and a “low end” amount. It is usually possible to negotiate a spousal support settlement that rests somewhere between these two best case and worst case scenario figures.
Can a SAHM get spousal support if she gets a job?
Yes. You can ask for support to cover the difference between your expenses and your income. Few stay-at-home Moms go back into the workforce to command the same sorts of salaries that they would have commanded had they continued to pursue their career, or that their husband can command. Since you’re still at an economic disadvantage, Canada allows you to continue to get support.
This doesn’t mean you’ll get the same support amount you’d been unemployed, but it can put you in a stronger position in the long run. Many people won’t be able to ask for spousal support that lasts forever. Negotiating your spousal support agreement with an eye towards future needs is one of the smartest things you can do.
How long does spousal support last?
Typically spousal support lasts for 1 year to ½ year per year of marriage. So if you were married for 5 years, you could expect to receive support for 3.5 years to 5 years into the future.
There is an exception: if you can take your age, plus the length of the marriage, and get a number greater than 65, then you may qualify for indefinite, lifelong support. Just keep in mind you can’t “double dip.” If your divorce order allows you to receive income from your spouse’s pension then you will either receive less support, or no support at all.
Indefinite support helps spouses who spent decades out of the workforce, sometimes raising multiple children. Realistically, they’ve been economically disadvantaged to the point where it is unlikely they will ever recover without support. Courts recognize this and act accordingly.
Can I get more support if my spouse committed adultery?
No. Your spouse’s behavior during the marriage has nothing to do with the amount of support that will be paid or the length of time that it will be paid. Support doesn’t exist to punish your spouse for bad behavior.
A spouses’s behavior during a marriage has very little to do with what any part of the divorce settlement looks like. It may not seem fair, but that’s the way the law works.
Negotiating Spousal Support
There are many ways that we can negotiate you into an excellent spousal support settlement, but you’ll have to think on what’s most important to you.
For example, we can help you get more support by offering a shorter time frame. Your ex might be willing to pay $3000 for 5 years where they’re less happy to pay $2000 for 10.
We could also help you secure a longer time frame for a smaller amount.
Sometimes it’s better to give up an asset to get more support. If you and your spouse own an income-bearing asset such as a rental property, then it might be wise to give up support altogether in exchange for the rental property, which can support you for life with no need for you to pursue enforcement at a later date.
Finally, we often suggest that our clients take lump sum payments when offered. This means that you get all the money you need to meet your needs and can save, invest, or use that money as needed. You won’t have to pursue your spouse for that money later, or worry that it will dry up when your spouse’s life circumstances change. You won’t have to worry that a spousal support modification could completely change your finances.
Share your goals and needs with us when we sit down to talk, and we’ll help you find the swiftest and best path towards getting those needs met.
Get Help Today
Our family law team has over two decades of experience helping SAHMs just like you. If you’re concerned about your ability to obtain spousal support, call (403) 237-7777 to schedule your appointment today.