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Spousal Support: Who Pays and How Much?

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Spousal Support is one of the the most subjective areas of family law. No one can guarantee you an amount.

In a separation or divorce, there may be a few payments (if they apply), such as child support, equalization, and spousal support. 

Spousal support is a payment from one spouse to the other. It’s meant to establish a similar level of financial support for both spouses moving forward.  

Spousal support is usually meant to: 

Equalize the households, meaning that both spouses have similar budgets to work with in each of their home (to care for the children or to lessen one’s financial burden moving forward).

Acknowledge a spouse’s contribution to the relationship.

Acknowledge a spouse’s economic sacrifice made during the marriage, such as giving up a career or training to care for the children. 

Help a spouse get back into the work field. 

Spousal support is a two-step process: 

First step is determining if a spouse is entitled to receive spousal support; and 

If a spouse is entitled, determining for how long and how much support.

The Spousal Support Guidelines don’t determine whether one spouse is entitled to spousal support or not. They are, however, heavily relied on when calculating the amount and duration of the support.

When researching spousal support, you may have seen reference to Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. The Guidelines provide ranges of amounts and duration of spousal support based on spouses’ incomes, child support (if payable), spouses’ ages, and length of cohabitation. While the Guidelines are not used to decide if one is entitled to spousal support, they are generally considered by lawyers and judges in the second step of the analysis, particularly in determining an amount of support and duration.

If you can’t agree on spousal support, a judge or arbitrator will impose a decision on you.

If you cannot agree, a judge or arbitrator will make a decision for you, taking into consideration the factors mentioned above and other subjective ones such as: the roles you each played during the relationship, financial stages, and child arrangements. 

There are many advantages to coming to an agreement on your own for spousal support. In mediation, you can be more creative and practical than a court can. 

You and your spouse can come up with an agreement regarding spousal support using negotiation or mediation. Choosing to resolve the issue of spousal support outside of the court system, can provide for significant advantages, particularly:

You can get creative about the structure of support (including different amounts, durations and termination/review terms);

You can prioritize your own family's needs; and,

You can take into consideration your family’s sense of fairness, which oftentimes cannot be captured by legal rules.

Blog posts and podcasts are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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About the Author

Laura Tarcea

Laura is a family mediator dedicated to supporting families through divorce or separation. With a background in Mental Health, Research, Program Development, and a Master of Laws in Dispute Resolution, Laura brings valuable insight and critical knowledge to parents. She strongly believes that a healthy co-parenting relationship will protect children from short-term and long-term damage. As such, Laura is a supporter of out-of-court processes to help equip parents with appropriate tools to succeed in their next chapter.

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