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Spousal Support – A Guide for the Confused

Spousal Support – A Guide for the Confused

In our last blog, we discussed at length the different aspects of a separation agreement. Spousal support typically plays a big role in the negotiations surrounding these agreements and we regularly receive queries from clients about this topic. As such, we’re going to examine how spousal support works and what to expect if you’re going through the process.

What is Spousal Support

Under the terms of a separation agreement, spousal support is paid by one spouse to financially support the other spouse after separation. It exists to help meet the on-going financial needs of a financially dependent spouse for a defined period. This period enables each spouse to work on becoming financially self-sufficient following the end of their relationship.

How is Spousal Support Decided?

When it comes to spousal support, there are two main factors in play. First, both parties will need to decide if one is entitled to spousal support. Then, the amount and duration of the support will need to be agreed upon.

Entitlement

A party is entitled to spousal support if there is a need for it based on the objectives of spousal support. For example, if childcare responsibilities preclude an individual from working full-time, they would most likely qualify for spousal support. Another common example is a spouse who finds themselves in economic hardship as a result of a separation; they would most likely qualify for spousal support.

Amount and Duration

When deciding the amount and duration of spousal support several factors will be considered:

  • The financial situation of both parties
  • The length of the relationship
  • The roles and functions of each spouse during the relationship
  • If the party requesting spousal support needs extra training or education to become self-sufficient

Based on this information, a determination will be made whether spousal support is needed, and if it should be paid in a lump sum or regularly over a certain number of months or years.

It’s worth noting, factors such as who instigated the breakup, or any infidelity will not be considered when a determination is made on spousal support.

Agreements Respecting Spousal Support

Spousal support can also be agreed upon before or during marriage. It can be included in a cohabitation/marriage agreement, or after the fact in a separation agreement. Any agreement made between spouses respecting spousal support is usually binding. However, it can be terminated or varied if certain conditions are met:

  • The spouse seeking spousal support failed to disclose income, significant property or debts, or other information relevant to negotiations;
  • A spouse took improper advantage of the other spouse’s vulnerability;
  • A spouse didn’t understand the nature or consequences of the agreement;
  • The agreement becomes “significantly unfair” in the case that someone’s financial circumstances change dramatically.

Taxes and Spousal Support

Many people aren’t aware 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

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