Spousal support is intended for a limited duration of time. The intention behind spousal support is to assist the lower income earning spouse with some financial support for a transitional period of time.
The term “spousal support” is for married couples who are separating. The Divorce Act governs the issue of spousal support for married couples. For unmarried couples the term is referred to as partner support or adult interdependent partner support and is governed by the Alberta Family Law Act or the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act.
Spousal support, unlike child support, is not an automatic entitlement. The spouse seeking support is required to show entitlement which usually arises in the following types of situations:
- Where the relationship caused an income-earning disadvantage for a spouse, such as where one spouse’s career was put on hold for the other spouse or for the benefit of the family; and
- where there is a significant reduction in the standard of living of a spouse.
The court looks at many different factors when deciding if a spouse is entitled to spousal support and in determining how much and for how long. Some of these factors include:
a) length of the relationship
b) the roles each spouse had in the relationship
c) the education, health and age of the spouse seeking support
d) the amount of debts and assets of the relationship
Unlike child support where payments are legislated, there are no spousal support guidelines… only advisory spousal support guidelines. This means that ultimately the judge has the final decision on whether spousal support is warranted and if so how much and for how long. The judges in Alberta do not have to follow the advisory spousal support guidelines and can rely on the facts of the case in making a decision.
What other issues do I need to know about spousal support?
- spousal support is taxable to the receiver and deductible to the payor.
- lump sum spousal support is not tax deductible and does not have to be claimed by the receiver;
- support may be for a limited period of time and end on a certain date; it can be reviewed at that time depending on the wording of the court order or separation agreement.