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Family Law Blog

How Long Does Spousal Support Last?

How Long Does Spousal Support Last?

Did you know that spousal support expires after a set period of time?

When a couple commences the divorce process, many difficult issues must be addressed. How will they divide their family property; what arrangements will be made regarding parenting? How will spousal support be decided upon, and how long will it last? That last question is one of the most contentious involved in the divorce process, so let’s take a look at how spousal support works, and how long it lasts.

What is Spousal Support?

In a separation agreement, spousal support is paid by one spouse to financially support their former partner following a separation. This important benefit exists to help meet the on-going financial needs of a financially dependent spouse for a defined period (more on this later). It’s designed to provide space for each spouse to work towards financial independence following their end of their relationship.

How Long Does Spousal Support Last?

What many people don’t realize is that spousal support only lasts for a defined period. It doesn’t go on forever. The most common duration of spousal support is 50 per cent of the length of time a couple was married or involved in a common law relationship.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. BC courts are empowered to make decisions based on certain factors when determining how long the payment will last.

Factors that Decide Spousal Support Duration

When a court is deciding the length of spousal support, they weight the following factors into their decision:

Financial Need

First and foremost, the court will consider factors such as the degree of a party’s need for spousal support; the degree to which a party may have made financial sacrifices during the relationship; the lifestyle they are able to maintain on their own, and their efforts and abilities to become self-sufficient.

Age Considerations

An important factor in the court’s decision is the ages of the parties involved. Where the paying party is approaching retirement, spousal support may be of a shorter duration because pension division (which also occurs in a separation) will serve to assist the receiving party from the point of retirement forward.

Other Factors in Play

Sometimes, spousal support will be paid in a lump sum rather than regularly over time. A court will make this decision if a party cannot be trusted to make payments over time, or if they are close to retirement but a pension division won’t be sufficient to provide for a receiving party. The two parties involved are also free to jointly decide on a lump sum payment by agreement.

How does Tax Impact upon Spousal Support?

Many people aren’t aware that the party who pays spousal support is entitled to a deduction in their taxes, while the person who received the spousal support needs to report that amount as taxable income. Any legal fees spent on enforcing or increasing spousal support payments are also deductible on your income tax.

Find Out More

The family law expert team at Westside Family Law can assist with any legal questions you may have surrounding spousal support. Contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.