Your divorce will undoubtedly bring about significant changes to your life. Among possible shifts in your living situation, time with your children, and relationship status, you may also find yourself facing new financial uncertainties that could challenge your livelihood and the lifestyle you and your family have grown accustomed to. One way to address financial concerns may be through spousal support. Whether or not you and your ex manage to remain mostly amicable throughout the divorce process, the issue of spousal support may cause emotions to flare and conflicts to arise. But it’s important to remember that whichever side of a spousal support claim you are on, the objective is not for either of you to be punished while the other luxuriates; it is to create adequate and equitable conditions that sustain you both as you get on your feet after divorce.
Whether you are seeking support payments in Edmonton or facing a claim from your ex, guidance from a pragmatic and knowledgeable divorce lawyer is essential as you work toward a reasonable arrangement.
Table Of Contents
- What is spousal support?
- What factors affect spousal support, and how is it typically calculated?
- Reaching a Fair Spousal Support arrangement.
- Trust a skilled divorce lawyer with your spousal support settlement.
What is spousal support?
Spousal support, a term often used interchangeably with alimony and/or spousal maintenance, is payment made from one ex to the other either periodically (typically monthly) or in a lump sum in order to secure financial stability after the couple’s divorce. Under the laws set in Canada’s Divorce Act, either spouse may seek Spousal Support; however, the court usually rules that support payments should go to the spouse with the lower income, especially if there is a significant discrepancy between earnings.
When applied appropriately, spousal support may serve a number of purposes, including—
- Protecting a spouse financially when he or she has sacrificed personal earning potential during the marriage by not working, working less than full time, halting education, and/or assuming more traditionally domestic roles within the marital home
- Compensating and providing vital income for a spouse who continues to provide full-time care to children of the marriage (beyond child support), even after the divorce
- Addressing other financial needs that arise as a result of the divorce
- Sustaining a spouse financially while he or she gains necessary skills or employment to become self-supporting
Depending on the details of a couple’s circumstances, spousal support payments may last for only a limited time, or they may go on indefinitely, with the ability to reassess the support order should either of their circumstances change. Additionally, courts may order that certain spousal maintenance be paid after the initial application is submitted but before a determination is finalized—this is known as an interim order.
What factors affect spousal support, and how is it typically calculated?
The first step after a spousal support application is submitted is for the courts to determine whether payments should be ordered. The judge presiding over the case takes a number of factors into account when issuing a decision:
- Each spouse’s financial circumstances, including their needs and their individual means
- The length of the relationship
- Each spouse’s role in the marriage for its duration
- How their marital roles and the divorce may affect their earning capacity or financial circumstances currently and going forward
- How childcare responsibilities are divided between the spouses (if applicable)
- Any existing contract, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, a separation agreement, or any other legally valid document aimed at determining a spousal support arrangement pre-emptively
One factor noticeably absent from the list is spousal misconduct. In fact, section 15.2(5) of the Divorce Act specifically stipulates that misconduct by either spouse shall not be considered when determining entitlement to Spousal Support.
Once a decision has been issued in favour of a support order, it’s time to set the amount that payment(s) will be and their duration. Calculating spousal support can be a complicated process in Edmonton; there is no Federal law or formula used that dictates the amount that payments will total, as there is with child support. Instead, Alberta courts will likely use and refer to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) provided by the Department of Justice, but ultimately much is left up to their discretion to make an appropriate judgment. With so many variables to factor into the calculation, it is easy to understand how the SSAG could overwhelm anyone who is not a seasoned legal professional. It makes guidance and influence from a qualified divorce lawyer all the more crucial—whether you are the spouse receiving support payments or the spouse with the obligation.
Reaching a Fair Spousal Support arrangement.
There are two ways to ensure your final spousal support arrangement is as fair as possible to both you and your ex. The first is simple: develop your own agreement. Indeed, by way of a marital agreement, a legal separation agreement or another similar document, or through productive negotiations, you and your ex can establish spousal support terms that you both agree are fair and reasonable. Typically, if you submit the details of your own agreement to the courts, it will be approved without having to expend extra time and energy.
Of course, sometimes no prenup or comparable document exists, working cooperatively with your ex is not feasible, and you must engage the legal system. In general, using the SSAG tools thoughtfully and hiring an experienced law professional to advocate for your interests will lead you (and your ex) to the fairest outcome in those cases.
Regardless of how you arrive at a spousal support settlement and what side of it you’re on, remember the following tips as you navigate the process:
- Remain honest – Always disclose all the information requested and avoid concealing assets or other details.
- Be open and willing to cooperate – Try to check your emotions at the door, and instead, focus on the objective: to reach a spousal support agreement that provides both you and your ex with the stability you need.
- Voice your needs – Communicate your goals to your lawyer so that he or she can help ensure they are met. Raise any concerns that arise.
- Consider the long term – Most spousal maintenance arrangements are not indefinite. Aim for a final agreement that provides short-term protection as well as any extended support necessary.
Trust a skilled divorce lawyer with your spousal support settlement.
When you have questions about reaching a fair Spousal Support agreement or need help with any other aspect of the divorce process in Edmonton, reach out to the compassionate and highly professional lawyers of Chadi & Company. We’ve got you covered as we help meet your goals and protect your interests. Call (780) 429-2300 or contact us online today to book a free consultation.