Common Questions in Calgary Divorces: Understanding Spousal Support: Part 1
December 8, 2016
Here at GDE Family Law, one of Calgary's premier law firms for divorces and other family law issues, we get a lot of similar questions from our clients. We use this blog as a way to provide answers to many of these questions, for our clients and for anyone in the Calgary area who may be considering or going through a divorce and who needs this information. While nothing we write here should be taken as direct legal advice for your unique divorce case, we hope that it sheds some light on common issues in Calgary divorces and better prepares you for conversations with your divorce lawyer.
One of the most common issues that comes up in Calgary divorces, and one which we receive many questions about, is spousal support. Commonly referred to as "alimony," spousal support is the legal term for payments made by one ex-spouse to another during and/or following a divorce. As spousal support payments can have a significant impact on your future livelihood, both for those ordered to make support payments and for those receiving them, we wanted to take the time to explain the basics of spousal support arrangements under the law and as they commonly affect people here in Calgary.
Spousal Support Can Be One Time or Ongoing
The basic rules for spousal support are spelled out in Section 15.2 of Canada's Divorce Act, starting with Subsection 1:
"A court of competent jurisdiction may, on application by either or both spouses, make an order requiring a spouse to secure or pay, or to secure and pay, such lump sum or periodic sums, or such lump sum and periodic sums, as the court thinks reasonable for the support of the other spouse."
Simply put, the judge overseeing your divorce can require a one-time lump payment from you to your ex-spouse or from your ex-spouse to you, or can require that ongoing support payments are made—typically on a monthly basis—for a certain period of time or for an unspecified time period (see Subsection 3). Monthly or other periodic payments tend to be more common in Calgary divorces, however each case is unique and a one-time payment may be appropriate in your case. Your divorce lawyer will be able to provide more specific insights and advice.
What Calgary Judges Consider in Awarding Spousal Support
Judges in Calgary and throughout Canada are bound by the Divorce Act to consider certain criteria to determine if spousal support is appropriate, and to determine the amount of spousal support. Subsection 4 reads:
"...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."
Longer marriages are believed to create longer and more significant financial entanglements, and thus awards for spousal support tend to be more common and for longer periods of time in Calgary divorces following longer marriages. In addition, if one spouse was the primary earner while the other took care of the home-making and/or child-raising duties, the latter is considered to have sacrificed earning potential to fulfill other functions in the marriage, and that is taken into consideration when determining spousal support.
Contact a Calgary Divorce Lawyer with Your Spousal Support Questions
Remember, this is only general information, and it is impossible to say how it might apply to your unique Calgary divorce. For answers to your specific spousal support questions, please contact one of our Calgary divorce lawyers today.
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