One of the most common misconceptions of spousal support is that it is required or mandated, especially in cases where one person stopped working during a relationship such as when the children came along. Spousal support is never guaranteed. In addition, specific time limitations apply.
Those who seek spousal support may feel barred from seeking employment. After all, being employed means you don't need support, right? To the contrary, the law wants both people to become self-sufficient and self-sustaining following divorce or separation. If you are underemployed, looking for a job, retraining or returning to school, these factors contribute to your need for financial support from your former partner.
At Westside Family Law, we want to do what's right for you and your family. Every solution will require an in-depth discussion and a unique plan of approach based on your family's circumstances. We can help you seek spousal support while you get back into the workforce or transition into your new, post-separation lifestyle.
Spousal Support Amount
When two people live together for a long period of time, they can develop financial interdependence whether or not they share or jointly acquire assets and bank accounts. Moreover, spouses or cohabiting partners rarely have the exact same income, especially if one person gives up a career to take care of the home or children. Thus, an income discrepancy is the most common reason people pay or seek spousal support.
Generally speaking, BC's Family Law Act indicates that spousal support should be used to:
- Address any economic advantages or disadvantages between partners due to the breakdown of their relationship.
- Support a spouse who has given up a job or restricted his or her career and/or working hours due to childcare responsibilities.
- Promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse as much as possible and within a reasonable amount of time.
As you might have noticed, the idea is to provide each person with the ability to move forward as an independent adult. For some, where income discrepancies are far off-balance, that could mean obtaining spousal support while also working and rebuilding your career.
After a breakup, the law is structured to promote both parties to become self-supporting, but it also recognizes that this goal may not be achievable in the short term or at all. Perhaps a spouse needs to go back to school or needs assistance while rebuilding his or her career. The following list provides general guidance on the criteria used for establishing spousal support:
- The age, health and education of both spouses as it affects their ability to find a job.
- The current income or skills and employability of both spouses.
- Assets or property the couple owned either before or during the marriage and the potential income these assets may generate (such as rental revenue).
- Alternative sources of income like inheritances or windfalls such as a lottery win.
- The age and number of children the couple supports, both together or from other relationships.
- The length of the marriage or relationship if common law (generally considered to be those who live together for at least two years).
- The standard of living the couple enjoyed while together, though the Court understands that most people's lifestyles will necessarily change due to separation.
It's important to recognize that spousal support does not have to last forever. Some spousal support agreements or orders include a finite time period of support. In fact, it may not even be awarded at all — spousal support is not automatically awarded. Instead, the supposed recipient must be prepared to defend his or her reasons for seeking spousal support. Moreover, the Court will also look at the intended payer's ability to pay support, in addition to other factors.
The law expects full and frank disclosure of your financial records for the purposes of determining support. If one spouse bargains in bad faith, hides assets or exerts undue pressure on the other to accept an agreement, the Court may set aside the agreement based on "fairness."
“Our firm has the resources and tools to find hidden assets and expose wrongdoing. If you suspect your spouse is playing games with your case, we can fight back.”
Spousal Support and Taxes
Revenue Canada generally assesses monthly (periodic) spousal support payments as income for recipients and as tax-deductible for payers. Though simple, problems can arise if you are not diligent in documenting your support payments. There are a few ways to ensure that your spousal support is calculated accurately at year's end:
- You must have a written agreement or Court order specifying periodic support to be taxable or nontaxable.
- Include a provision that the recipient must issue an annual receipt of spousal support payments made that can be filed with the payer's tax return. A receipt like this can help to prevent each spouse listing different amounts on his or her tax return.
- Sign up for BC's Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP), which is a free public enforcement agency available to both payers and recipients that maintains a record and schedule of all support payments.
Get Your Questions Answered on Spousal Support
All of these factors underscore the need to have knowledgeable counsel on your side when divorcing or separating from a partner. At Westside Family Law, we have combined decades of experience helping families of all kinds in Vancouver understand and protect their interests in family law matters. We will seek support solutions that put you on a path towards financial stability following separation.
As with everything on our website, this information should not be taken for legal advice. The best way to navigate spousal support issues is to work with a skilled lawyer from Westside Family Law. We will make it our priority to find an effective resolution to your family law-related issues. Fill out the contact form below to set up a free consultation with a lawyer, or call us at 604-734-7911 to get started.