How is spousal support calculated?

How is spousal support calculated?

Spousal support is one of the most contentious and complicated aspects of divorce. There are many factors that play into how much support one spouse owes the other once the divorce has been settled. In court proceedings it is often up to a judge to decide the amount and parameters for spousal support. However here are a few factors that may come into play when figuring out how much spousal support is due.

Spousal support is not guaranteed

Just because two people were married doesn’t mean that a spouse is entitled to spousal support. There are online calculators that are available to calculate potential spousal support, however they don’t take into consideration the important factor of entitlement. This means that:

  • If a spouse has not suffered economic disadvantage as a result of the marriage or childcare responsibilities,
  • has not become accustomed to a standard of living that is impossible to maintain on his/her income alone,
  •  or has not provided services to the other spouse or children for which they have not received compensation or other benefits,

the spouse may not be entitled to spousal support.

How much and how long?

If the spouse IS entitled to spousal support the questions of how much they are due and how long they are to be compensated comes up. There is something called the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines to help with this. This is what most online calculators are based on. However, the guidelines include about 100 pages of rules about how to apply and interpret the calculations that don’t show up on the online calculators.

It is important to consult with a professional like a lawyer or judge who are well versed in reading the guidelines and applying them to specific cases. You can read them yourself, but they are meant for lawyers and judges and may be difficult to get through without a legal education and training.

Spousal support is not only based on what you make

Spousal support can also be based on what you COULD make. A judge considering a spousal support case will take into consideration the “full time” income for a person that could be working full time.

A judge will also take into consideration the contributions a spouse made to the marriage and/or children. This includes what financial sacrifices were made in order to maintain the home or raise children. A judge will often ask what a spouse could have made if the relationship had not happened.

Spousal support may be paid out periodically or in a lump sum. This depends on the situation. If the amount is not too high some spouses may prefer a lump sum as it gets the payment out of the way and it is less likely to be affected if the spouse making the payment has financial issues in the future. If the spousal support amount is high and is expected to last for a long time, periodic payments may be more appropriate. Tax implications for both situations also must be taken into consideration.

This information is by no means exhaustive. Every situation is different so it is important that you hire proper legal representation who will be able to guide you through the divorce process and ensure that you are treated fairly when it comes to paying or receiving spousal support.

About Darrin Clayton

Darrin was born in Richmond Hill, Ontario, north of Toronto and has been practicing Family Law in Ottawa for over 20 years. He moved to Ottawa in 1985 where he attended Carleton University. He graduated in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts Highest Honours with a Concentration in Criminology. He attended Law School at Queen’s University from 1990 to 1993. Darrin articled at a large firm in downtown Ottawa. After his call to the Bar he worked for a small firm Lyon and Rick. He opened his own practice in October of 1999. Darrin practices exclusively in the area of Family Law and Wills & Estates. He is a member of the local law association - the County of Carleton Law Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the Law Society of Upper Canada (body that governs lawyers) and the Collaborative Law Network (Ottawa Collaborative Family Law Association). A large part of Darrin's practice now centres on helping couples resolve their family law issues as a mediator.