Spousal support is not limited to parties that were married and can include parties that were cohabitating for at least three years or, where the parties have cohabitated for less than three years, have children together.
Similar to child support, spousal support can be agreed to by the parties or ordered by the court. Spousal support is not appropriate in every separation or divorce, and either party can be obligated to the other. Generally, spousal support is ordered to try and cushion any economic disadvantage that a spouse would suffer due to the separation or divorce.
The Divorce Act does reflect an expectation that, after separation, each party is obliged to make efforts to support themselves such that spousal support will terminate after a defined period of time. There are also Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines that offer assistance in what the sum and duration of support should be.
When dealing with spousal support, one must determine both the quantum and duration of support. There are various factors that are taken into account in assessing this, such as the age of the parties, the length of the relationship, the earning capability of each party, the roles that each party played in their relationship, and the age of any children. We make use of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines as a tool to help determine whether an individual is entitled to receive spousal support, and if so, the quantum and duration of support payments. While spousal support is generally paid monthly, it can (in certain circumstances) instead be paid as a one-time lump sum payment.
Similar to child support, spousal support payments can be enforced through the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).
A common misconception about spousal support is that it ends once the payee spouse remarries or cohabitates with someone else; however, this is not always the case. Spousal support, like child support, can be varied through an Agreement or court Order. A court will, generally, only change spousal support where there has been a significant change in circumstances.