First and foremost, child support is not spousal support. Parents have a financial obligation to their children and child support payments are the means by which this obligation is fulfilled and balanced between parents post separation or divorce. For more information on child support see our previous blog post: How the courts calculate child support in Alberta.
What is spousal support?
At a very basic level, spousal support is a payment between former partners and is intended to provide the receiving party with financial support upon the breakdown of the relationship.
Unlike child support, there is no mandatory requirement for spousal support payments. However, both the Divorce Act and the Alberta Family Law Act provide the court with the discretion to make an order for spousal support upon request by one of the parties should they deem that party to be entitled to support.
How is entitlement determined?
Spousal support payments are intended specifically to assist in situations where one spouse may be economically disadvantaged following the breakdown of their relationship. When the court is asked to assess entitlement to spousal support they will consider a number of factors.
For example, they will consider the length of the relationship as well as the length of time that the parties cohabitated. In addition to that, they will consider the role that each party played in the relationship – as an example, one party may have worked full time outside of the home while the other party may have worked within the home. This dynamic may make it more difficult for the party who worked within the home to find sustainable employment after the divorce or separation. Ultimately, the court is looking to assess the ability of each party to financially sustain themselves upon separation and will provide support in cases where one party may be less able to do so.
Where a need for spousal support is determined the aim of the support is to assist the receiving party in working towards being financially self-sufficient. This means that a spousal support order can be reassessed when the circumstances of the parties change – for example, a change in employment circumstances for one of the parties. It is also important to know that child support payments always take priority. This means that only after any child support obligations have been assessed will the court turn to assessing the need for and financial viability of spousal support payments.
Finally, with the help of an experienced family or divorce lawyer parties can determine spousal support entitlement and come to a spousal support agreement outside of the court system saving both parties time and money.
What the courts don’t consider:
When determining entitlement to spousal support courts will not consider a parties moral misconduct – for example, cheating during the relationship. Spousal support is strictly related to the financial position of the parties.
The breakdown of a relationship is a stressful time for all parties involved and financial uncertainty only adds to what might feel like a never-ending uphill battle. The outcome of a successful claim for spousal support will provide you with a set monthly payment for a period of years to help ease this uncertainty.
If you believe you may be entitled to spousal support payments or if you are hoping to learn more about spousal support obligations the Hayes-Fry law team is here to help. Give our office a call today at 780.831.7370 or email reception@HayesFryLaw.ca to book a consultation.
The following resources were relied on in the preparation of this blog:
- Divorce Act, R.S.C., 1985, c, 3 (2nd Supp.)
- Family Law Act, SA 2003, C F-4.5.