Calgary Divorce Law and Spousal Support: Part 2

February 26, 2016

At GDE Family Law, one of Calgary's leading divorce and family law firms, we believe that empowering our clients and everyone in Calgary with relevant and easy to understand information is one of the best ways to help them through the divorce process. The emotional upheaval of a divorce is compounded by immediate and long-term concerns regarding finances and other related practical issues, which can make it even harder to take necessary actions and make effective decisions; better information can ease stress and make the decision process easier.

In Part 1 of this article, we provided a brief overview of spousal support as it is defined in the Divorce Act. Judges in Calgary Courts are given a high degree of freedom in determining when spousal support is appropriate and how it should be carried out, though there are specific factors the law requires them to consider. In this article, we'll look at the first few of these factors.

Primary Considerations for Spousal Support in Calgary Divorces

Section 15.2, subsection 4 of the Divorce Act reads as follows:
(4) In making an order under subsection (1) or an interim order under subsection (2), the court shall take into consideration the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of each spouse, including

  • (a) the length of time the spouses cohabited;
  • (b) the functions performed by each spouse during cohabitation; and
  • (c) any order, agreement or arrangement relating to support of either spouse.

"Condition, means, needs, and other circumstances" is purposefully broad and somewhat vague, allowing judges to make specific and unique determinations based on the specific and unique circumstances of every Calgary couple undergoing a divorce. If one spouse suffers mental or physical ailments that make it difficult for them to support themselves, for example, this could affect spousal support. Understanding precedent in case law is essential in understanding how this clause might apply to your case, which is why consulting with an experienced Calgary divorce lawyer is so important.

The other elements in this subsection are somewhat more concrete, though they still represent a decidedly gray area in Calgary divorce law. The length of cohabitation is pretty straightforward; the longer a couple is together the more financially interdependent they tend to be, and judges are encouraged to consider this factor in making spousal support decisions. There is no hard and fast rule, however, and spousal support can be awarded following a very short marriage or ruled out even after a very lengthy marriage depending on other factors.

The functions of each spouse in the marriage can also greatly impact spousal support rulings. If one spouse spent most of the marriage caring for a home and family rather than building a professional career outside the home, for example, while the other spouse built a lucrative career, those different functions (and the resulting "condition and means" of each spouse) can definitely affect spousal support. Finally, if there are existing agreements about spousal support such as a "prenuptial agreement" or other arrangements, a Calgary judge may take this into account, as well. Such agreements, even in the form of signed contracts, are not necessarily ironclad, and judges are not obligated to uphold these agreements.
Discuss Spousal Support With a Calgary Divorce Lawyer

We'll look into more spousal support details in future installments of this article series. For answers to questions about your specific divorce case, please contact the Calgary divorce lawyers at GDE Family Law today.

This entry was posted in Blog, tagged Divorce Law and posted on February 26, 2016

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