Spousal support is intended to account for economic disadvantages arising from a marriage breakdown, to relieve financial hardship, and to promote self-sufficiency.

Entitlement must be proven. Unlike child support, spousal support is not mandatory. Parties can agree not to ask for it or can reach an agreement as to terms. Without an agreement, entitlement is based either on a compensatory or non-compensatory model.

Compensatory support takes into account the economic sacrifices one spouse made because of the role they assumed in the marriage. The classic example is where the wife gave up a career to stay home and raise the children.

Non-compensatory support is based on the means of the payor and the needs of the recipient. A classic example of non-compensatory support would be where one party has a good income and the other unemployable due to a disabling illness.

In 2005 the Federal Government introduced “Draft Spousal Support Guidelines” (SSAGs) in an effort to create more certainty and predictability in spousal support awards.

In theory, the SSAGs are nonbinding, but in practice, they are the starting point and often the ending point for calculating spousal support.

The SSAGs provide two basic formulas for calculation both the amount of support and how long support payments should continue. One formula applies where child support is being paid, the other applies where there are no children.

The formulas produce ranges for amount and duration, and there are variables to determine where within the range the support should fall.

Generally, the amount depends on the difference between the parties’ incomes and, in the without children model, the length of the marriage. The duration depends on the ages of any dependent children, the length of the relationship, and the age of the recipient.

In B.C. the calculation of spousal support is complicated further because unequal property division is often preferred instead of support.

This article is intended as a general description of the principles used in calculating spousal support. For individual cases, many more variables and considerations may apply. It is recommended that before making decisions with respect to spousal support you should consult a lawyer.

This article is for general information only, and should not be relied on as legal advice in any particular case. Consult a lawyer for advice on your case.