Spousal Support

Spousal Support Lawyers in Calgary

Spousal Support Lawyers in Calgary Alberta

Alimony is called “spousal support” in Canada. 

It may be awarded in separations or divorces where one partner is left at a financial disadvantage as a result of the relationship breakup.

However, the right to alimony and calculations of how much should be paid can be very confusing for couples. 

It helps to have an experienced family lawyer explain the financial consequences of the breakup to avoid surprises and potential disputes.

At Jennings Family Law in Calgary, our lawyers will thoroughly examine your circumstances and explain clearly where you stand with spousal support.

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The two types of spousal support legislation

With spousal support in Calgary, both state legislation and federal legislation may affect entitlement and the amounts involved.

The Divorce Act of Canada

The Divorce Act is federal legislation specifically for married couples who divorce. It provides guidance for the court when deciding on spousal support.

It states that a spousal support order should:

  • Recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the marriage or its breakdown;
  • Apportion between the spouses any financial consequences arising from the care of any child of the marriage over and above any obligation for the support of any child of the marriage;
  • Relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the marriage; and
  • In so far as practicable, promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time.

This is open to some interpretation from judges, based upon factors such as the duration of the marriage, the respective ages of the spouses, income and earning capacity, education and training/work experience, health, parenting duties, and so on.

If a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is in place, it may also affect the issue of spousal support, depending on what is included in the agreement and whether it is legally enforceable.

The Family Law Act of Alberta

The Family Law Act includes spousal support legislation specifically for Alberta, and it may apply to married or unmarried couples who separate.

Under this legislation, an unmarried person can claim spousal support if Adult Interdependent Partner (AIP) status can be demonstrated.

To be classed as an AIP you must show that:

  • You have lived with another person in a relationship of interdependence, or
  • You remained together for a continuous period of not less than three years, or
  • The relationship was of some permanence (for instance, you had a child together), or
  • You entered into an AIP agreement with your partner in accordance with the legislation

In determining whether spousal support is payable, the judge will consider many of the same factors as under the Divorce Act.

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Why is spousal support awarded?

For the family court of Alberta, the ideal scenario after a relationship breakdown is that both partners are able to move on with their lives capably and independently and resolve differences amicably in the best interests of the children (if applicable).

The court wants to see that both partners have the means to support themselves self-sufficiently in the future and will treat spousal support as separate from (but often connected to) the matter of child support.

If, for instance, one parent has been the main caregiver for the children while the other partner has been working full time to support the family, it is usually unfair to expect the caregiver to support herself or himself entirely in the event of a relationship breakdown.

In such cases, the caregiver would usually be due regular spousal maintenance payments – either permanently or for a specified period of time – to help make ends meet and avoid financial hardship.

Who can claim spousal support in Calgary?

As already mentioned, non-married partners in a common-law relationship may be eligible for spousal support in Calgary, as well as married partners.

However, the fact that one partner earns more income than the other does not always entitle the lower-income partner to spousal support.

Judges in Calgary will consider both compensatory or non-compensatory claims:

  • Compensatory spousal support: this is awarded because of an economic disadvantage to one partner caused by factors like the respective partners’ roles in the marriage (as per the caregiver/full-time worker example outlined above) or lost earning capacity after the relationship breakup.
  • Non-compensatory spousal support: this is where one partner requires support to meet basic needs after the separation or where their living standards decline dramatically after the marriage.

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How is spousal support calculated?

Once entitlement to spousal support has been established, the amount, frequency, and duration of payments must be decided.

By far the most common way to pay spousal support is by regular monthly payments rather than a lump sum.

Your lawyer can help you make spousal support calculations according to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines from the federal government.

This provides guidance on entitlement to spousal support and tools for calculating approximate amounts. A judge can exert considerable discretion when awarding spousal support if your case goes to trial.

Some basic factors that may affect the award may include:

  • The duration of the relationship/marriage;
  • The roles of each partner within the relationship/marriage
  • The income-earning ability of the lower-income partner

Get assistance with spousal support

The matter of spousal support can be a complex and potentially emotional issue. Many divorce cases are delayed because of it.

Discussing the matter via an initial consultation with one of the divorce lawyers at Jennings Family Law can help you get clear on where you and your partner stand.

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