A divorce or the breakdown of a common-law relationship often involves a claim for spousal support, when one partner would be left in a disadvantageous financial position as a result of the split. Determining the entitlement, amount and duration of support will vary, depending on a number of factors, and must either be agreed to by the parties via an agreement or ordered by a court or arbitrator in a situation where the parties cannot come to terms on their own. Ensuring fair financial support can be crucial to the day-to-day quality of life for both parties, and so the guidance of a skilled family law lawyer is important.
At Mincher Koeman, our family law lawyers can help clients work through any issues related to spousal support, including entitlement, amount and duration. We regularly work with clients to review spousal support obligations and provide guidance with respect to determining a fair spousal support plan. We will also recommend the most efficient and, therefore, cost-effective method of resolving this issue for every client. If the parties are able to negotiate fairly, it is possible to reach an agreement on spousal support without necessitating the involvement of a court or other formal method of dispute resolution.
Our goal is to provide comprehensive advice and set realistic expectations in every situation so that clients have a clear understanding of what support would be considered fair under the law. Client service is a top priority for our firm, and regular and honest communication is a key component of that. We will strive to answer any questions a client may have and ensure that their interests are protected throughout the resolution of their matter.
The Divorce Act states that the purpose of an award for spousal support is to address the following four factors:
Any divorce resulting in a significant financial imbalance between the parties is likely to warrant a finding that spousal support is necessary, while also recognizing that both parties should attempt to become self-sufficient as soon as possible.
The Family Law Act allows non-married spouses who are in a common-law relationship to apply for spousal support. Common-law spouses with children are eligible to apply for spousal support provided they have lived in a marriage-like relationship. Common-law spouses without children are eligible to apply if they have lived together continuously for three years.
It should be noted that spousal support payments are tax-deductible for the payor and are considered to be taxable income for the recipient.
Once it is determined that a spouse may be eligible for spousal support, the next step is to consider the duration and amount of spousal support, whether the amount will be paid each month or in one lump sum, and whether or not the support obligation will be secured. The federal government has published a non-binding guideline known as the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines that set out ranges and terms of spousal support. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines provide a roadmap for a court to determine an appropriate support award, however, judges do have the discretion to vary the support from the amount provided in the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. The factors that primarily affect a spousal support award are:
Note that full and honest financial disclosure is key to a fair spousal support award. If a client’s spouse appears to be deliberately hiding assets or misreporting employment income, or is deliberately under-employed, a court will likely impute a higher salary to that spouse when determining a support award. Once awarded, spousal support can be varied in the future if there is a significant change in circumstances for the payor or the recipient. Typically this would involve a change in a person’s circumstances with respect to employment, health, or relationship status. In such cases, unless the parties can mutually agree to new terms, an application to vary the support can be brought to a court.
At Mincher Koeman, our lawyers have considerable experience in assisting clients with negotiating and securing spousal support orders. We are highly knowledgeable on all factors relating to support awards, including the federal Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, we are skilled at identifying and locating hidden assets, and we always attempt to resolve spousal support matters in the most efficient way possible. If you are in need of legal advice with respect to spousal support, please contact our office to make an appointment to discuss your matter with one of our family lawyers by calling us at 403-910-3000 or by contacting us online.
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