Family matters, especially after a breakup or separation, can be tough and confusing. One big question many people face in Ontario is the difference between child support and spousal support. Simply put, while both deal with money, they are for different purposes and have different rules. Imagine you’re sorting out two puzzle pieces that at first glance seem similar, but actually fit in different places. That’s what child and spousal support are like in the world of family law. In Ontario, understanding these two pieces is important, especially if you’re going through changes in your family.
Here are 6 main differences between child support and spousal support in Ontario:
1. The Fundamental Purpose
The primary purpose of child support is to ensure that children continue to benefit from the financial support of both parents after a separation or divorce. It is a recognition that both parents have an ongoing duty to financially provide for their children.
On the other hand, spousal support (often referred to as alimony) is designed to recognize the economic impact of the breakdown of a marriage or common-law relationship. It might aim to compensate for economic hardship or disparities resulting from the relationship or its breakdown, to support a spouse in becoming financially self-sufficient, or to fulfill contractual obligations from a pre-existing agreement.
2. Basis for Calculation
In Ontario, child support amounts are primarily determined using the Federal Child Support Guidelines, which use a table, considering the number of children and the payer’s income, to set the basic monthly amounts. Additional expenses, like childcare, medical, or educational costs, might require an additional support over the basic amount.
The calculation of spousal support is more nuanced. While the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) offer a range of amounts and durations based on various factors (like the length of the relationship and the roles during the union), these guidelines are advisory, not mandatory. A court can use its discretion, considering the spouses’ means, needs, and circumstances.
3. Duration of Payments
Child support typically lasts until the child turns 18. However, it can extend beyond if the child is unable to support themselves due to disability or if they’re pursuing an education full-time.
The duration of spousal support varies widely from a short period to long term or even indefinite. Some of the factors that affect its length include the duration of the marriage, the age of the recipient spouse at the time of separation, and the roles during the relationship.
4. Tax Implications
For the individual making the payments, this means that they cannot claim these amounts as tax deductions, potentially differentiating child support from other financial responsibilities or contributions that might offer such benefits. On the other hand, for the recipient, these funds are seen as a non-taxable provision.This means that the money received for child support doesn’t increase their taxable income, ensuring that the full amount is directed towards the child’s needs without tax implications.
For the individual responsible for making these payments, there’s a silver lining: these amounts can be claimed as tax deductions. This allows the payer to reduce their overall taxable income by the amount of spousal support paid, potentially offering relief in the form of lowered tax liabilities.
On the flip side, the recipient of spousal support doesn’t receive these funds tax-free, unlike child support. They are required to declare spousal support payments as taxable income, which means the amount received contributes to their overall income for the year and is subject to taxation. This approach is rooted in the Canadian tax code’s view of spousal support as a form of income redistribution between separated or divorced partners
Child support can be revisited and adjusted based on changes in circumstances, like an alteration in the payer’s income or a change in the child’s needs.
Similarly, spousal support can be varied based on material changes in circumstances. This might include the recipient spouse becoming financially self-sufficient or either party experiencing significant financial changes.
6. Agreement Types
Both child and spousal support can be agreed upon in:
- A separation agreement
- A court order
- A family arbitration award
However, parties cannot contract out of child support, meaning they can’t agree to an amount below the Guideline amount or waive child support entirely.
By focusing on the complexities of family law, particularly as it pertains to Ontario residents, we hope to offer clarity and understanding to those facing such challenges. Our skilled family lawyers at Sterling Law are here to provide legal advice and representation. Book a free consultation (up to 30 minutes only) with one of our experienced lawyers today.