Spousal Support Lawyer Toronto
Spousal support, referred to in the past as alimony or spousal maintenance, involves the payment by one spouse to the other of a payment to compensate for the roles that were assumed during the marriage. Spousal support between married couples is governed by the Divorce Act and spousal support between non-married couples is governed by the Family Law Act. For someone who was not married to claim spousal support, he or she must have been cohabiting for 3 or more years, or have a child and have lived in a relationship of “some permanence” with the other person.
As the nature of relationships change, and spouses are more likely to both work, the spousal support analysis has changed as well. A spouse needs to establish “entitlement” to spousal support, which means that there has to be some of the factors from the legislation and case law which require support to be paid. Income discrepancy alone is technically not enough to ground a spousal support claim. However, income discrepancy can be a sign that there is some economic consequence that a spouse suffered because of the relationship. In addition, a spouse can be entitled to spousal support, but there is not always enough money available to be paid after other financial obligations, like child support. Entitlement is an issue that sometimes does not get enough attention, but it remains important nonetheless.
Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines
Spousal support does not have a table the way child support does. However, in recent years, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, or SSAGs, have taken on increasing importance. While they started out, as the name implies, as advisory, the court of appeal has stated that if a court does not follow the SSAGs it needs to provide an explanation why. The SSAGs are a lengthy document with complex formulas which try to guide lawyers and courts through the various factual scenarios that can arise in relation to spousal support. The SSAGs only apply once entitlement to support has been established.
The SSAGs provide a range of recommended support, providing three values, low, mid, and high, as possible support amounts. Whether the low, mid, or high range is used depends on the reasons why someone is entitled to spousal support. Sometimes, spousal support is based on need and sometimes it is based on compensation for the roles assumed during the marriage. The calculations for the SSAGs are complex. They require a calculation of Net Disposable Income, or NDI, which is the amount of income each party has left over after paying taxes, paying child support, any credits received from the government, and other factors. Because of the complexity of these calculations, a lawyer at Divorce Source can help guide you through them.
The SSAGs also recommend a duration of support. The duration of spousal support payments is a challenging and uncertain issue. It depends on many factors, such as the length of the relationship, the length of time the payor can continue to work, and the economic consequences suffered by the recipient spouse as a result of the marriage.
How is Spousal Support Enforced?
One positive element for recipients of spousal support is that a government organization, the Family Responsibility Office, or FRO, enforces spousal support payments. That means that rather than pay a lawyer to garnish pay, put liens on property, or seize bank accounts, a government organization can do that for you. The FRO also has other measures at its disposal to enforce support, including, in some extreme cases, imprisonment. The FRO exists because the government believes it is important that people should not have to spend their own funds chasing spousal support payors for money owed to them for either spousal or child support. The FRO can also be useful because they track the support paid and therefore can help avoid disputes over what has or what has not been paid. However, it is important to remember that the FRO is like the police officer, not the judge. The FRO can only enforce what the judge orders and does not determine the amount of support independently.
Like custody and child support, spousal support can be varied if there is a “material change in circumstances.” This means that if something important has changed regarding either party’s income, spousal support may be varied. Therefore, it is never really final.
How Long Does Child Support Last?
In terms of duration, spousal support orders can be “time limited”, meaning they have a fixed termination date. They can also be “indefinite”. Spousal support orders after long relationships are often indefinite. Indefinite does not mean infinite or forever. Rather, it just means there is no set termination date for the support. Indefinite orders can still be varied or terminated based on a material change in circumstances, like any other orders. Sometimes, if there is genuine uncertainty as to someone’s circumstances, a “review” may be ordered to determine in some period of time what has occurred with either party’s income.
In addition, like legal fees for child support, any legal fees you incur to obtain spousal support can be deducted from your taxes. This can be very significant and effectively results in lowered legal fees that are partially supplemented by the government, by way of reduced income taxes. The lawyers at Divorce Source can provide you the documentation you need to claim this deduction and ensure you are able to benefit even further from any claim for spousal support.
Contact our Family Law Team
The lawyers at Divorce Source can help you navigate this area of the law to ensure your rights are protected and you pay or receive the proper spousal support amount.
When you meet with a Divorce Source lawyer, we immediately assess your goals for the case, what needs to be done, and what documents you need to obtain. Getting organized from the beginning is a critical aspect to a case to make sure costs are reduced and your spousal support case is handled properly. Divorce Source provides a tailored approach to your case, as we understand that each case is unique and does not fit into a “cookie cutter” mold. Everyone has different goals and objectives for their child support case, and lawyers at Divorce Source understand that. Divorce Source is your source for all matters relating to your spousal support case.