How is spousal support decided?

There are two steps to deciding spousal support.

The first step is to figure out if you are entitled to receive spousal support. If you are entitled to spousal support, then you can calculate how much is fair and for how long it should be paid.

Sometimes, even if you are entitled to support, you may not receive any spousal support because of other factors.

Entitlement

You are entitled to spousal support if there is a need for it based on the objectives of spousal support.

The spousal support objectives recognize that child care responsibilities can affect a parent’s ability to support himself or herself, for example, child care responsibilities may prevent one parent from working full-time or building a career. Spousal support could also compensate a spouse who gave up opportunities to help the other spouse pursue their own opportunities or career. Or spousal support may be needed to limit the economic hardship caused by the separation or to help a spouse as they become financially independent after separation.

If one spouse is entitled to spousal support, then you need to figure out the amount of spousal support and determine for how long it will be paid.

Amount and duration

The amount and duration of spousal support is determined after considering the circumstances of each spouse, including:

  • Your financial situation and the financial situation of your former spouse
  • How long your relationship lasted
  • The roles and functions of each spouse during the relationship, and
  • What the person who is asking for spousal support needs in order to become self-sufficient, such as extra training or education

Based on this information, it may be determined that:

  • No spousal support is needed, or
  • Spousal support should be paid in one lump sum, or in regular payments over a certain number of months or years

In making a decision about spousal support, a judge will not look at any other aspects of your marriage, such as who left the relationship or the fact that one of you had an affair.

Once it is determined that one spouse is entitled to spousal support, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines can be used to figure out the amount of spousal support. These guidelines are not law but most lawyers and judges use the guidelines to help them decide the range of appropriate amounts. The guidelines are complicated and usually you will need a lawyer to do the calculation for you.

  • MySupportCalculator.ca is a website with a support calculator which can give you a rough estimate of spousal support. Please read its limitations and terms of use.

For more information, please see the fact sheet Spousal Support by the Legal Services Society.