During a relationship, one person often spends more time looking after the home and the children. That person does not have a chance to earn a lot of money in the workforce, or to become more skilled and more highly paid in a trade or profession, or to pay into a pension plan over a long period. When a relationship ends, that person is at an economic disadvantage.
To decide on the amount of support that should be paid by one spouse to the other, the law says that judges must look at how much the person asking for support needs to live, and how much the other person can pay. A person may claim support to help him or her become financially self-sufficient or to keep from ending up in serious financial difficulty.
In general, people who have been together for a short time will only be able to get support on a short-term basis. Support payments may give a person a chance to go back to school or train for a job.
After years out of the workforce or years in low-paying jobs, some people may never be able to become financially self-sufficient. Their spouses may have to pay long-term support for them.
Here are some of the things that are taken into account:
â€¢ the age and health of the couple
â€¢ available employment opportunities
â€¢Â the effect being in the relationship had on employment opportunities
â€¢ the contribution made to family care during the relationship
â€¢ the contribution made to the other personâ€™s career
â€¢ the familyâ€™s standard of living before separation
â€¢ the time it will take for the person to become self-sufficient
â€¢ the need to stay at home to take care of young children or adult children with a disability
You can agree on the amount of support that will be paid and for how long it will be paid and include this in your separation agreement. If you cannot agree, you can go to court and let the court decide.
In July 2008, the Federal Department of Justice released the final version of the advisory spousal support guidelines. These guidelines apply to couples who have been married and are not mandatory. They provide a range of suggested spousal support amounts based on the age of the spouse receiving support, the length of the marriage and the presence or absence of child support. These guidelines were designed to assist you in reaching agreement about a support amount based on the amounts awarded by judges in similar cases.
Q. How can I figure out how much support to ask for?
A. You need to write down details of your income and expenses. List how much you spend on food and household expenses and things like transportation, medication, dental bills, clothes, dry cleaning, haircuts, car expenses and insurance, home insurance, vacations, gifts, entertainment, pet food and veterinary bills. All these expenses can be included when figuring out how much support you need. You can also ask your lawyer to explain how the spousal support advisory guidelines might apply to your situation.
Q. I am 55 years old. The court ordered my spouse to pay me $500 every month. That is fine for now, but with inflation and the price of everything going up, I am worried that it wonâ€™t be enough in five years. Is there anything I can do?
A. Yes. You can ask the court to add a cost of living adjustment to your court order. This ties your support payments to the Consumer Price Index for the area where you live. Your support payments will then change every year to match the rate of inflation.
Common Law Couples
Q. Weâ€™ve lived together for ten years. Most of that time, Iâ€™ve been at home taking care of our four kids. If we separate, can I get support for myself?
A. You can ask for support. Common law spouses have a right to ask for support for themselves if they have lived together for more than three years or if they have lived together for less than three years but have had or adopted a child together.
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* source: attorney-general of Ontario website
Things to know about Family Law