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.
With spousal support in Calgary, both state legislation and federal legislation may affect entitlement and the amounts involved.
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:
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 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:
In determining whether spousal support is payable, the judge will consider many of the same factors as under the Divorce Act.
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.
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:
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 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.