Spousal Support in Ontario (2022)

  • Ifa major gap exists between the income of one party and another, the one receiving the lower amount will often be eligible for support.

  • It’s important to understand that not every spouse is entitled to support.

  • Spousal Support is money paid by one spouse to another after a separation.

Spousal Support in Ontario (1)

Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines

Spousal Support Laws in Ontario [Canada] aka Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines include the age of both parties, the needs of the parties, the length of the marriage, the contribution each has made to the marriage including looking after children and the home, the value of any benefit of the marriage lost in a divorce, and the mental health of each spouse.

Why do I need to know this?

Family law provides for spousal support. Either by court order or agreement the SSAG principles along with legal advice is a good starting point to guide your spousal support decisions.

Once you and your spouse have decided to separation and divorce, the process should be cut and dry, right?

Unfortunately, unless you’re filing fora simple divorce, it can get a little complicated. This is especially the case if one party is required to pay spousal support or child support as part of the settlement arrangements.

You’ve likely heard of child support, but what about the other term? Are you unsure what spousal support means or what it entails? That’s why we’re here.

Today, we’re breaking down this concept into manageable parts. We’ll also share information specific to Ontario residents, so you know exactly how to proceed.

Ready to learn more? Let’s go!

What is Spousal Support in Ontario?

First, let’s begin by answering a simple question: What exactly is spousal support?

In short, this is money paid by one spouse to another after a separation or divorce. In some instances, you might hear it referred to as maintenance or alimony instead.

It’s important to understand that not every spouse is entitled to support, so therefore not every ex-spouse is required to pay spousal support. There are many factors that go into whether or not a spouse will receive this support, as well as how much support they will receive.

While this post will explain the basics around how this process works, it’s always best to team with a reputable family lawyer before moving forward with any decision. This way, you can make sure you’re following all of the right legal steps for your province or territory.

How Do Courts Decide Who Receives Spousal Support?

Canada’sDivorce Actsets the standards around spousal support orders for married couples.

As this is a federal law, it applies to every resident, all across the country. At the same time, local provinces or territories may have their own laws that define how unmarried couples in common-law relationships should handle spousal support. Those same regulations apply to married couples who decide to separate but not divorce.

For instance, if you’re in acommon-law relationshipin Quebec, you’re not entitled to any form of spousal support if you and your partner (or de-facto spouse) separate. If you lived in a different province, this might not be the case and youcouldbe eligible for support. Usually, local courts require that you and your partner must live together for a set number of years before separating to qualify for spousal support.

Financial Imbalance

The number one factor that determines if one spouse must pay spousal support to the other? Ifa major gap exists between the income of one party and another, the one receiving the lower amount will often be eligible for support. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, for one reason or another, the court will decide that the spouse with the lower income is ineligible for support.

The two factors that caninfluence this decision include:

  • If the lower-income spouse has a significant number of assets
  • If the differences in the two incomes are unrelated to anything that happened during the marriage

Other Factors for Consideration

In addition to financial differences, a judge will also base his or her spousal support ruling on a number of different factors. These include:

  • The financial requirements of each spouse

  • How long you and your spouse were married

  • What roles you and your spouse took on during your marriage

  • Ifthose roles and the dissolution of your marriage affectedeither spouse’scurrent financial state

  • How your children will be cared for (if applicable)

  • The likelihood of one spouse becoming self-sufficient after receiving support for a period of time

  • Any other support order or arrangements made about spousal support

In addition, it is to be considered how paying spousal support to the spouse with the lower income will affect that individual. Specific questions that arise include:

  • Will this support compensate the lower-income spouse for the power to earn income that he or she sacrificed during the marriage?

  • Will this supportbe enough for the lower-income spouse enough to cover the ongoing care ofthe children?

  • Does the other spouse have the financial means to pay this support if the other spouse requires it?

One factor that doesnotplay into spousal support rulings? If one spouse cheated on the other. Canada has a no-fault divorce rule, which means that infidelity does not make one spouse obligated to provide financial support to another. The same applies to any reason that your marriage ended in divorce.

What Are the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines?

Sorting between the laws and guidelines surrounding spousal support in Canada could be confusing. The Diorce Act provides for the concept of Spoual Support, it is the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, that guide us in establishing the support amounts and duration of the support.

The current Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines were developed by two law professors with the primary objective to standardize how spousal support amounts and duration are calculated. Our Federal Department of Justice adopted the guidelines in 2008. The SSAGS are not law!

You can read the full text of the SSAGhere.Yet, keep in mind that while these are important guidelines, even the SSAG isn’t followed in every case, as the judge ultimately has the final say in spousal support matters. Still, let’s review how the SSAG approaches spousal support to get an understanding of how the process works.

The SSAG Calculator : Two Methods

Under the SSAG, there are two main ways that spousal support can be calculated:

  • Formula 1: With Child Support
  • Formula 2: Without Child Support

Next, let’s take a general look at how each formula is calculated. Remember, these are rough estimates intended for educational purposes only. They are not exact calculations.

Formula 1: With Child Support

Is spousal support being considered alongside child support? If so, the following factors will come into consideration:

  • Each spouse’s gross income
  • The amount of the child support obligation
  • The age of the children
  • Taxes and related deductions
  • The length of the marriage or cohabitation
  • Any applicable government benefits or credits
  • The needs of the recipient spouse
  • The ability of the paying spouse to assume this financial burden

The first step is to consider how much spousal support is required and how long the paying spouse should pay it.

Step 1: How Much Support is Required?

To figure out how much spousal support is required, begin by calculating your gross income. This is the amount of money you make after taxes and other deductions.

Then, subtract your monthly child support payment from that number.Also, subtract anytaxes and other applicable deductions.

Next, add back in any government tax credits or other benefits that apply to your case. The resulting number is known as yourIndividual Net Disposable Income or INDI. The other spouse will perform the same calculation, only instead of subtracting child support, he or she willaddthat figure to the INDI calculation.

Let’s review a real-life example to simplify.

  • Spouse 1’s Monthly Gross Income: $120,000/12 = $10,000 per month
  • Cost of child support for two children: $1,777
  • Income tax paid (around 30%): $10,000 x 30% = $3,000
  • Applicable government benefits: None

Spouse 1 INDI Calculation: $10,000 – $1,777 – $3,000 = $5,223

  • Spouse 2’s Monthly Gross Income: $70,000/ 12 = $5,833.33 per month
  • Child support received for two children: $1,777
  • Taxes paid (around 20%): $5,833.33 x 20% =$1,166.66
  • Benefits receieved: $550

Spouse 2 INDI Calculation: $5,833.33+ $1,777 +550 = $8,160.33 – $1,166.66-= $6,993.67

Now that you have both INDI calculations, add them together. In this case, the sum is $12,216.67.

When considering child support, the number of children makes a difference. In this case, the SSAG mandates that two children put the spouse in the 54% to 60% support range. This makes the calculation 54% to 60% of $12,21.667,which equals:

$12,216.67 x 54%= $6,597.00

$12,216.67 x 60%= $7,330.00

Yet, these aren’t the final numbers. Now, you’ll subtract Spouse 2’s INDI from those numbers. With these numbers and a 60% support rate, Spouse 2 could receive a monthly support payment of up to $336.33.

Step 2: How Long Must the Spouse Pay?

Next, determine the length of time the paying spouse will provide support. In most cases, the length of your marriage will be the deciding factor.

Then, you’ll establish a range of years of support, which can span from half of therelationship (lowest end) to the entire duration of the relationship. If two spouses are married for 20 years, this can range from 10 to 20.

How does a judge knowwherein this range your payment timeline should fall? He or she will take several considerations into account, including:

  • The income-earning capacity of the recipient spouse
  • The characteristics of the children (age, quantity and any special needs)
  • The paying spouse’s ability to pay
  • The paying spouse’s work incentives
  • Any shared debts
  • Divison of any property
  • Any prior support obligations
  • Any illnesses or disabilities
  • Applicable self-sufficiency incentives

The judge will review your stance on all of these factors to set a timeline for your spousal support payments. For instance, if you don’t have any children with special needs, you (the paying spouse) and are financially able to provide the money, it’s likely that you’ll pay on the lower end of the timeline, around10 years.

Beyond the Formulas – Additional Support Considerations - Download

When establishing a spousal support agreement according to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (the “SSAG”), in addition to the formulas, you may consider:

  • Entitlement to Spousal Support
  • Amount of spousal support within the Ranges (Low, Mid, High)
  • Restructuring
  • Ceilings and Floors
  • Exceptions
  • Lump Sum Settlements
  • Other Miscellaneous Issues in SSAG

SSAG Deep Dive Direct Download here


Formula 2: Without Child Support

In the event that you and your spouse divorce without any shared children, you’ll calculate spousal support costs in a slightly different way. Let’s review the formula using the scenario above.

First, add both monthly gross incomes together. This equals $15,833.33.

Now, figure out the difference between those two incomes: 10,000 –$6,993.67 = $3,006.33.

Finally, consider your years of cohabitation. Say these two spouses lived together for five years and were married and living together for 10 years before filing for a divorce. Thus, the total equals 15 years.

With that number, you’re ready to calculate your ranges. The range for this formula is a lot lower, at 1.5% to 2%. Start by converting these percentages into decimals, so 1.5% becomes 0.015 and 2% becomes 0.02.

Then, multiply the income difference by these percentages.

  • $3,006.33 x 0.015 = $45.10
  • $3,006.33 x 0.02 = $60.13

From here, multiply these numbers by your years of cohabitation. This equals:

  • $45.10 x 15 = $676.50
  • $60.13 x 15 =$901.95

From this rudimentary illustration,your monthly support payment account could run from $676.50 to $901.95.

When and How Can I Apply for Spousal Support?

Not sure about your schedule just yet? That’s OK! Thanks to theLimitations Act, you don’t need to feel rushed.

You can apply for spousal support at any time without fear of an imposing deadline. The only reason to get started as soon as possible rather than hesitating is that a judge will consider your realneed before granting support.


Are you staring at a mountain of divorce paperwork, feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to begin? While spousal support can help ease the financial burden of losing one-half of your family’s income, that service alone only goes so far.

Our organization is committed to helping spouses work through their issues, prioritizing communication at every turn. It pays to team with a neutral mediator and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst to help you understand complex legal terms and work through the process as smoothly as possible.

Would you like to learn more?Get in touch for aGet Acquainted Call to learn more about finding a separation agreement with a soft landing.

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About the Author:

Ken Maynard CDFA, Acc.FM

Certified Divorce Financial Analyst & Family Mediator at DTSW
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Ken Maynard CDFA, Acc.FM2022-06-17T21:43:05-04:00

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