Spousal Support, also known to many as Alimony is a topic that has many misconceptions surrounding it. Spousal Support is not something that is automatically awarded to a married spouse or common law partner. There are stipulations put in place as to when someone would be entitled to it. Spousal support conversations, in our personal experience are one of the main causes of elevated legal fees, because there is no black and white answer. This leaves a lot of room for misinterpretations, difference of opinions and heated conversations.
In 1999, the Supreme Court listed the three grounds necessary to establish an entitlement to spousal support (Bracklow v. Bracklow):
· To compensate a spouse for hardship or opportunities lost due to the marriage or its breakdown;
· To fulfill a contractual agreement, expressed or implied, that the parties were responsible for each other’s support; or
· On a non-compensatory basis, to assist a spouse in need where there is the capacity to pay, even in the absence of a contractual or compensatory foundation for the obligation.
The Divorce Act further states (in s. 15.2 (6)) that the 4 objectives of a spousal support order are to:
· Recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the marriage or its breakdown;
· Apportion between the spouses any financial consequences arising from the care of any child of the marriage over and above any obligation for the support of any child of the marriage;
· Relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the marriage; and
· In so far as practicable, promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time.
As you can see in the information above, these grounds and objectives are open to interpretation and can cause some conflict when trying to agree upon spousal support terms. In mediation, we try and keep our conversations geared towards goal-based negotiations instead of positional based. Mediation can be a wonderful option for couples looking to have guidance during these difficult discussions.
FYI – A handy and easy to use Spousal and Child Support calculator and estimator can be found here: https://mysupportcalculator.ca/