In some circumstances, one spouse will have to provide ongoing financial support to the other.
This payment is called “spousal support”. In some jurisdictions, but not in Ontario, this payment is also called alimony. Married spouses and “common-law” spouses, whether they are same sex or opposite sex spouses, can be called upon to pay spousal support.
Will You Pay or Receive Spousal Support?
Whether spousal support is paid will depend upon a number of factors. It will depend upon whether one spouse has financial need and the other has the means to provide support. It will depend upon whether the spouses have developed financial dependencies during their relationship. For unmarried, cohabiting spouses, it will also depend upon whether certain statutory prerequisites have been met. These prerequisites have to do with the length of cohabitation and whether there are children, among other factors. For all spouses, it is essential to consult with a support lawyer to understand if your relationship has created a spousal support obligation or entitlement.
Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines
As with child support, there are Guidelines which assist in the determination of spousal support. These Guidelines are called the “Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines.” Unlike the Child Support Guidelines, spousal support amounts produced by the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are not imposed by law. Application of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines is discretionary. Having noted this, in the great majority of cases, spousal support paid will fall within the range of spousal support generated by the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines.
How Much Spousal Support
The amount of spousal support to be paid will depend upon the income of each spouse, whether the spouses have children and whether there was a high level of financial dependency during the spouses relationship, among many other factors. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines generate a range of support values (low end, mid-range and high end). In order to determine where your payment will fall within this range – if at all – your spousal support lawyer must evaluate your unique circumstances.
Duration of Spousal Support
The period of time for which spousal support is paid depends on the length of the spouses’ relationship, whether they have children and the level of financial dependency of one spouse upon the other, among many other variables. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines generate a recommended duration of spousal support. However, once again, you should consult with a spousal support lawyer to determine whether this duration is appropriate, given the unique circumstances of your case.
Enforcement of Support Payments
The Family Responsibility Office (“FRO”) is an office of the Government of Ontario that oversees the enforcement of support payments. If spousal support is ordered by a Court, the Court Order will be automatically sent to FRO for enforcement. It is possible to opt out of FRO enforcement in some circumstances. Please see the “Resources for You” section of our website to obtain further information about enforcement of support through FRO then consult with your spousal support lawyer to obtain assistance with enforcement matters.
Both child support and spousal support may need to be changed overtime, given changing circumstances. Spouses’/parents incomes may change. Children’s needs may increase or decrease. Child support must end when a child reaches the age of majority and become self-sufficient. Similarly, spousal support may end when the receiving spouse becomes self-sufficient. To change support amounts identified in an Agreement or Court Order, you must obtain a new Agreement or Order.
If support is being collected by the Family Responsibility Office (“FRO”), FRO must generally receive a new Agreement or Order before they amend their enforcement arrangement. You cannot simply notify FRO of a change.
Changing support does not have to be difficult or costly. To ensure that you take the right steps and that you protect your interests, seek guidance from your support lawyer in order to implement your changes.