If your relationship is ending, one of the many things that you probably have to worry about are finances. Will you receive (or have to pay) spousal support? If so, how much and for how long? Read more to understand how spousal support works in the Alberta courts.
Who Can File For Spousal Support?
Either member of a divorcing couple can file for spousal support. In some cases, you can file for support even if you weren't legally married, but have been in an Adult Interdependent Relationship instead. Such relationships are sometimes referred to as "common law" relationships.
In order to qualify for spousal support, couples in an adult interdependent relationship must have lived together in a marriage-type relationship for at least three years, or have a child together. A member of a childless couple can qualify for spousal support sooner than three years only if they signed an Adult Interdependent Partnership agreement.
Will The Spouse With Less Income Automatically Receive Support?
While you are more likely to see an order for support in situations where there exists a big gap between the couple's incomes, an order for support is by no means automatic.
A judge is going to consider the reason that there is such a large income disparity between the couple. If the difference in income has nothing to do with the marriage, the court may decide not to award support.
For example, if your spouse of five years is still in the same position at work that he or she held prior to marriage, and his or her decision to be there has nothing to do with your marriage, then the judge may decide that support isn't warranted.
However, if your spouse has remained in a low-level job because it allowed a flexible schedule around which he or she could schedule child-care, a judge will likely decide that your spouse lost out on income potential in order to fulfill a specific role within the marriage.
Other factors that the court will consider when awarding support include:
- the financial means of both spouses, including assets such as property, stocks, bonds, etc.,
- the needs of both spouses, including any disabilities suffered by a spouse that might affect his or her ability to eventually become self-sufficient,
- the length of the marriage,
- who takes care of the children,
- the ages of the spouses,
- the standard of living currently enjoyed by the spouse, and
- any existing legal agreements between the spouses regarding support.
The court also will consider a few other factors than can negatively impact an order of support, including:
- the existing obligation a spouse has to pay child support or spousal support to someone else,
- whether or not a spouse is living with someone else, and how that living situation affects the spouse's expenses, and
- the eventual need for an non-disabled spouse to become self-sufficient, if possible.
Are There Guidelines That The Court Follows?
Ideally, the courts prefer divorcing couples to reach an agreement on their own regarding support, but when that isn't possible the Alberta courts use the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines as a basis for their calculations.
Because the guidelines are just that - guidelines, and not laws - the courts are able to disregard them when they deem necessary and you can end up paying, or receiving, either more or less than the guidelines indicate, depending on what factors are presented in court and considered by the judges.
If you're facing the end of your relationship, don't go it alone, especially if there is any issue that may affect the spousal support that you either owe or receive. Find an experienced lawyer to help you get the fairest settlement possible under the circumstances.