Toronto Family Lawyers - Spousal Support

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What Is Spousal Support?

The term "spousal support" is not one that's used frequently in common parlance. Rather, the word "alimony" is the term that most people recognize. Whatever you decide to call it, you should know that it's one of the most commonly fought over issues in a divorce matter. At, we understand that this is a very trying time in your life, and you want the best Toronto Family Lawyer to help you get the spousal support that you're entitled to. That's why we'll put you in touch with some of the best Toronto Family Lawyers who will help you achieve a fair result. But what exactly is it, and what purpose does it serve?

To answer that, we need to first look at the matter from the right contextual view. That is, in many marriages it is one spouse who is the income-earner, and the other spouse is the homemaker. Now, it doesn't always fall so neatly, but for the purposes of this explanation, we'll assume it does. The homemaking spouse gives up their plans and aspirations of a career in exchange for taking care of the family, which includes child rearing as well as home-care responsibilities. The income-earning spouse typically secures employment so they can provide financially for the family. If the couple decide to divorce, the spouse who put their career on hold will undoubtedly be concerned about how they are going to support themselves going forward - meaning, after the divorce.

To aleviate this problem, the family law in Ontario dealing with spousal support mandates that financial support be paid when there is a marked difference in the spouses' income. The higher earning spouse will usually pay the lower earning spouse a monthly sum, which is earmarked for living expenses.

Unlike child support payments, spousal support is not as strictly regulated with respect to amount. Rather, the family law in Ontario states that the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are a starting point in determining the total sum payable and the term during which it's payable, but are not determinative. 

What Are The Factors Used To Determine Spousal Support?

Spousal support is a very complicated and technical legal issue. We never recommend that you try and represent yourself, or negotiate the amount or term on your own. You run the risk of agreeing to a deal that is less than what you're entitled to. That's why at, we make sure that we take all your personal factors into consideration before we refer your matter to a particular Toronto Family Lawyer who specializes in spousal support disputes.

While the list of factors that will play into the determination of spousal support are lengthy and complicated, some of the more common ones are:

  • The financial position of the spouses. For example, is one spouse earning more than the other, and if so, by how much? Is one spouse responsible for all the income generated by the couple?
  • The length of the marriage. Was it a short marriage, or a longer marriage? This makes a difference when assessing the lower-income earning spouse's standard of living expectations. The longer the couple were married, the more likely that the court will find that the lower-income earning spouse is entitled to maintain the same standard of living, and thereby, entitled to more spousal support.
  • The unique roles that the spouses played during their marriage. For example, was it implied that one spouse would earn an income while the other maintained the home and took care of the kids?
  • The age of each spouse and how that affects their earning capacities. For example, if the lower-income earning spouse is at an age where it would be difficult for them to restart, or begin, a new career, then it is unlikely the court will penalize them for that when making a determination of the total sum of spousal support payable.
  • The spouse's standard of living during the marriage. This factor seeks to maintain a constant standard of living for both spouses after the breakdown of the marriage. Therefore, it seeks to ensure that the lower-income earning spouse doesn't experience a significant shift in their standard of living once they're divorced.
  • The number of children involved in the spouses' marriage. The more children that are involved, the more likely it is that the lower-income earning spouse did more work in child rearing, as well as homemaking. Therefore, they'll likely be entitled to more in spousal support payments.

Another very important factor that the Ontario family law courts take into consideration is the existence of child support payments, their sum, and how that will affect the higher-income earning spouse's ability to make spousal support payments. At, we know that this is a very trying time for you, and that's why we're extra sensitive to your needs. We'll connect you with the best crop of Toronto Family Lawyers in the city to make sure you get what you're entitled to under the law.

Determining Who Is Entitled To Spousal Support

There’s a general misconception out there that a disparity in the couple’s income will automatically lead to spousal support entitlement. This is not correct. For a person to be entitled to spousal support, there has to be either (1) a finding by a court as to entitlement, or (2) an agreement between the spouses as to entitlement. In the first case, a court makes a finding that one spouses is entitled to spousal support from the other spouse based on a number of enumerated factors. In the second case, the spouses themselves have previously entered into an agreement as to the amount of spousal support payable, as well as the duration of the payments.

Under the family law in Ontario, there are currently three different claims that a spouse can bring to determine entitlement for spousal support:

  1. Compensatory
  2. Non-compensatory
  3. Contractual claim for support

Compensatory Claims for Spousal Support

A compensatory claim for spousal support can be based on either the lower-income earning spouse’s economic loss, or financial disadvantage resulting from the marriage. For example, the specific roles that each spouse takes on during the marriage has a major effect (like breadwinner or homemaker), as well as when the higher-income earning spouse receives some sort of economic benefit that they do not share with the other. Examples of the above situations are child care arrangements, quitting ones job to facilitate the employment of the other spouse, or helping the higher-income earning spouse secure their current employment.

Non-Compensatory Claims for Spousal Support

Contrary to a compensatory claim for spousal support, a non-compensatory claim for spousal support is largely based on the lower-income earning spouse’s need. “Need” in the spousal support context can mean one of two things: (1) to cover the basic needs of the lower-income earning spouse, or (2) to maintain the same or similar standard of living enjoyed by the lower-income earning spouse during the time of their marriage. It is important to note that many of the cases involving spousal support rely on both compensatory and non-compensatory claims. This is something a skilled Toronto Spousal Support Lawyer can help you determine.

Contractual Claims for Spousal Support

This is exactly what it sounds like: where the spouses have entered into a contract of sorts, whereby the specified the support payable by the higher-income earning spouse to the lower-income earning spouse. The contract in question can be either a marriage contract (prenuptial agreement), or even in a separate agreement.

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines

The SSAG takes the above-factors that are used in determining spousal support and enters them into a software program called DivorceMate, whereupon they’re further entered into a calculator of sorts that determines the range of support payable by the higher-income earning spouse to the lower-income earning spouse. It is important to note that the SSAG are not codified in legislation, and therefore, are not binding on a reviewing court. However, they are considered to be highly persuasive and are routinely adopted by the family courts in Ontario.

The Term (Duration) Of Spousal Support

After the lower-income earning spouse has established that they’re entitled to spousal support, the analysis shifts its attention to determining the length that the spousal support will be payable for. In essence, it seeks to answer the question of “how long will I have to pay my former spouse or common law partner spousal support for?” The answer to this question will depend largely on the specifics of the relationship, as well as whether they couple have any children from the relationship, as well as on the spouses’ age and the age of the children.

While each situation will be based on the specific facts of the case, as a general rule, the minimum period during which spousal support is payable is half the duration of the marriage in question, plus any time previous to the marriage during which the couple cohabitated. On the other side of the spectrum, the maximum period during which spousal support is payable is the total quantum of years that the couple were married, plus any time previous to the marriage during which the couple cohabitated. So let’s go through an example using the above guidelines: a couple that lived together for 4 years prior to their 10 year marriage, would result in the lower-income earning spouse being entitled to a minimum during of 7 years, and a maximum during of 14 years.

It is important to note that the SSAG isn’t a ridged system of numbers and term limits. Rather, it incorporates both hard and soft limits to its guidelines. This has the advantage of making the spousal support payment flexible and situational. Therefore, if the couple have a young child from their marriage, the term during which the spousal support is payable can be increased to the date when the child reaches the age of majority (in Ontario, the age of majority is 18). So as an example of this, if said child was only 2 years old when the couple separated, then it is possible for the maximum during of support under the SSAG to be increased to 16 years, even if the couple only cohabitated for a term of 5 years.   

Why Do I Need A Toronto Family Lawyer To Help With Spousal Support?

The law respecting spousal support, as well as the Family Court system, are both legally and procedurally time consuming and complicated. Equally as challenging are the out-of-court negotiations that are held between the parties. This is because most people are unfamiliar with family law, and are, therefore, unaware of the rights they may have or the entitlements they may seek.

Those that represent themselves, whether in a court proceeding or during negotiations, run the risk of become overwhelmed, stressed out and lost. What usually results is they inadvertently hurt their own case by filing the wrong motion, or negotiating the wrong term. Don't prejudice yourself because you didn't want to spend the money on a lawyer. At, we can connect you with a Toronto Family Lawyer who charges reasonable fees, and accepts payment plans.

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