FAQ: Spousal Support (2022)

Frequently Asked Questions about SPOUSAL Support

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*The information provided below does not constitute legal advice and is only applicable to situations

governed by the law of Ontario. You must contact a lawyer for advice relevant to your circumstances.

Should a spouse leave the matrimonial home?

  1. Neither spouse should leave the matrimonial home without first obtaining legal advice.
  2. Without the consent of the other parent or a Court Order, a spouse will not be permitted to leave the home with the children.
  3. If a spouse leaves the home without the children, he or she may be prejudicing their right to obtain custody of the children. Also, it may be difficult to re-gain access to the home later on to retrieve personal belongings.
  4. It is important to know that unless there is a Court Order or an agreement that provides otherwise, both spouses have a right, under the law of Ontario, to live in the matrimonial home, even if one of them is not a registered owner of the home.

How is spousal support determined?

  1. Spousal support may be awarded on a compensatory basis to address any economic disadvantage created by the spousal relationship. For example, a disadvantage is created when one spouse stays out of the workforce to raise children; supports a spouse pursuing a professional degree; or relocates to further a spouse’s career.
  2. If one spouse earns more money than the other spouse or if a spouse cannot support himself or herself, or their standard of living after separation will be significantly reduced compared to what it was during the relationship, spousal support will likely be payable, unless a marriage contract or cohabitation agreement provides otherwise.
  3. The longer the marriage or relationship, and the greater the difference between your financial resources, the more likely it is that spousal support will be payable.

Is there is a way to determine how much spousal support is to be paid?

  1. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, (although not mandatory), are increasingly being used by the Courts to set the amount of spousal support, and to establish an expected range for negotiation.
  2. These Guidelines suggest a range for spousal support based on the income differential between spouses, the length of the marriage, the age of the spouses at separation, and whether child support is being paid.

Will spousal support vary over time?

  1. The amount of child support paid is directly tied to your income and the children’s residence. The amount of child support is adjusted yearly.
  2. Both payor and recipient will be expected to disclose their annual income each year and the amount of child support will vary according to the Child Support Guidelines. If the payor’s income decreases, child support will normally decrease. If the payor’s income increases, child support will increase as well.
  3. Spousal support is more variable, depending on the situation. Spousal support can also vary with changes in each spouse’s income, but will often remain constant for a period of time, subject to a Court’s review. In some cases, spousal support may be indefinite, depending on the length of the marriage and the roles adopted during the marriage. Support awarded in these cases will not normally be changed without agreement of your spouse or a Court Order, although the support amount is often indexed to the rate of the consumer’s price index. Will spousal support vary over time?

Is support tax deductible?

  1. Unless child support is being paid pursuant to a Court orderor agreement dated 1996 or earlier, child support is not taxdeductible by the payor, nor does the recipient include it astaxable income.
  2. Periodic spousal support paid pursuant to a written agreement is tax-deductible by the payor and is included as taxable income by the recipient.

What effect will a new relationship and a new familyobligation have on child support and spousal supportobligations to the payor’s first family?

  1. In general, a new relationship will not be taken into account and child and spousal support will not be varied as the result of a new relationship or obligation.
  2. Courts will usually not reduce support obligations to a payor’s first family because of the responsibilities and obligations the payor has undertaken since separation.
Is there a difference between the rights of married spouses and spouses who live common-law?
  1. Not when it comes to custody, child support and access to the children. There is, however, a difference with regard to the division of property and spousal support.
  2. Common law spouses do not have the same property rights as married spouses. Married spouses are presumed to share the proceeds of all the assets accumulated over the course of a marriage. In general, common law spouses do not share property, unless there is joint ownership or one spouse has made a substantial contribution in the form of either effort or money to an asset owned by the other spouse, or the Court rules that the parties have been engaged in a joint family venture, meaning the spouses worked together towards a common goal, such as raising a family, building a business, or running a farm together. In making this determination, the Court will examine the level of economic integration between the spouses, the intent of the parties and the priority the family took in the parties’ decisions.
  3. As for spousal support, common law couples are entitled to spousal support only if they have lived together for three years, or if they have a child together and the relationship was of some permanence. Married spouses are presumed to be entitled to spousal support if one spouse has the need for it.
  4. Same sex couples, whether married or common law,have the same rights as opposite sex married or common law couples.​

Will the fact that one spouse cheated and left the relationship for another person affect the property settlement or entitle the innocent spouse to a larger amount of spousal support?

  1. Conduct is normally not relevant in the determination of theamount of spousal support or the division of property

  2. The fact that one spouse cheated and left their spouse for another person, will not affect the rights to property settlement or spousal support.

  3. The Ontario Family Law Act requires each spouse to account for all of the assets they accumulated over the course of the marriage.

  4. In general, a snapshot will be taken of each spouses’assets and liabilities on the date of marriage and on the date of separation. The net value of assets minus liabilitieson the date of separation will be compared to that on thedate of marriage to determine a spouse’s net familyproperty. The law then requires this amount to be equalized so that both spouses leave the marriage with an equal value of assets they have accumulated over the course of the marriage.

  5. There are certain exceptions to this process. Thematrimonial home, being the home where the spousesreside at the date of separation, is factored into theequation without a deduction for its value on the date ofmarriage. Also, certain items such as life insuranceproceeds, gifts from third parties (not from the otherspouse), inheritances and personal injury damage awardsmay be excluded from the net family property calculations.The rules regarding these exceptions are fairly strict and each exception will have to be carefully reviewed before being accepted.​

What information is needed to determine a spouse’s property entitlement?

  1. As the property owned on the date of marriage and on the date of separation is relevant to the calculation of net family property, evidence of the value of these assets at these two points in time is necessary.

  2. Evidence supporting the value of exclusions from net familyproperty calculations such as inheritances or gifts.
  3. Some property, such as pensions, antiques and realproperty will need to be valued by a professional, orthe pension administrator.

Is there a way to protect one’s assets and ensure that there is no obligation to pay spousal support?

  1. Yes, a marriage contract, if married, or a cohabitation agreement, if living common law, that sets out obligations and entitlements at the end of the relationship can provide that property will not be divided and that no spousal support will be payable.
  2. As long as the terms of the contract or agreement are fair,each party has independent legal advice, and the financial situation of each party is fairly and accurately disclosed,the Courts will uphold a cohabitation agreement or marriage contract.
  3. There is, however, no way to contract out of paying child support or determining custodial rights in advance.○A cohabitation agreement can be drafted so that it automatically becomes a marriage contract on the date of marriage.

How long does it take to get a divorce?

  1. The most common grounds for divorce is having lived separate and apart for one year. As such, it normally takes a little over a year to be divorced.

  2. In certain circumstances, a divorce may be obtained more quickly. Adultery and cruelty are expedited grounds that may entitle a spouse to a divorce earlier than one year, but divorce on such grounds is more difficult and costly to obtain than the ground of living separate and apart for one year, as the party must prove cruelty or adultery if the other spouse will not admit the same.
  3. Courts will also want to ensure that adequate provisions for child support are made before granting a divorce.
  4. It is important to note that spouses may live “separate and apart” while under the same roof. Spouses are considered separated when one spouse has clearly indicated to the other that they consider the marriage to be over and proceeds to live independently, even if remaining in the same residence.

Is it necessary to have the Court involved in resolving family law disputes?

  1. No. Very few family law cases proceed to a trial before a Judge, and increasingly, couples are able to settle their cases through mediation.
  2. Court can be avoided by reaching an agreement on the issues arising from separation. Alternative dispute resolution techniques, such as mediation or negotiation through lawyers can often achieve a settlement.
  3. It is always in an individual’s best interest to obtain legal advice before commencing mediation or attempting to resolve family law issues on their own. A settlement that will not stand up in Court is a waste of effort and will often create bad feelings, which can be difficult to later overcome.

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