Will I Have To Pay Spousal Support?

Whether you will have a legal obligation to pay spousal support upon the breakdown of your relationship depends on quite a number of factors.

Some of the factors that determine whether you will be a payor or recipient of spousal support are: the length of your relationship, the roles that you and your spouse assumed within the relationship, the agreements that you did or did not have and whether there is disparity of incomes and earning potential between you and your spouse.

Simply being in a marriage or a common law relationship does not mean that there is an automatic entitlement to spousal support. As stated by the Judge in the Alberta Court of the Queen’s Bench in the 2005 case of V.S. v. A.K.:

“a person does not acquire a lifetime pension as a result of marriage. Likewise, marriage is not an insurance policy.”

Generally spousal support is payable in one of two situations:

  1. On a “needs basis” which is to meant to equalize the financial positions of the spouses as much as possible and to lessen the economic hardship to one party that can result from the relationship breakdown.
  2. On a “compensatory basis” which is meant to compensate one spouse for the financial decisions made by both spouses during the relationship. This basis recognizes that in a marriage or a common law relationship, particularly a lengthy one, there is often one party who was economically disadvantaged by the relationship and gave up some advancement of their career in order to enable the other party to advance their career and earning potential.

The bottom line is if you had a lengthy cohabitation and there is a large disparity in your incomes, it is quite likely that there is a legal obligation to pay spousal support.

The situations that are harder to determine is where there has been a short or mid-length relationship or where there is not a large disparity in incomes or earning potential. In those situations, sometimes there will be no entitlement to spousal support. There could also be a short spousal support obligation for a defined period of time.

If you have questions about this complex area of law, I highly recommend that you consult an experienced family lawyer to assess how the law applies to your unique situation.

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