Spousal support, often called alimony, is undoubtedly one of the more delicate issues couples face during the challenging journey of separation and divorce. It embodies both financial and emotional dimensions, making it a topic of concern and frequent discussion. The duration and amount of support often hinge on factors such as the length of the marriage, the roles adopted by each partner during the union, the financial disparity between the parties, and their respective needs post-separation.
At the same time, age, health, and the ability to become self-sufficient after separation play important roles in the determination process. Navigating these details requires a keen understanding of Ontario’s family law and often the guidance of legal professionals.
Understanding Spousal Support
Before we delve into the duration, let’s understand why partners are required to pay spousal support. Some of the main reasons include:
1. Compensate a spouse for sacrifices made during the marriage.
2. Assist a spouse in financial need arising because of the end of the marriage.
3. Help a spouse achieve financial independence post-separation.
Factors Influencing Duration
Let’s dive deep into the different factors that affect the duration and amount of spousal support in Ontario:
1. Length of the Relationship/Marriage
Typically, a longer relationship may lead to a more extended period of support. This correlation exists because longer relationships might involve more profound financial interdependence and sacrifices made by one partner for the benefit of the family.
2. Age of the Recipient
Age can influence how long it might take for the recipient to become financially self-sufficient after separation. If, for instance, a spouse is close to retirement at the time of separation, the support duration might be extended.
3. Roles During the Marriage
If one spouse sacrificed career growth or opportunities to support the family or the other spouse’s career, this could lead to longer spousal support durations.
4. Presence of Children
If children are involved, especially if they’re young or have special needs, this could extend the spousal support duration, given that one parent may need to remain a primary caregiver.
5. Ability to Become Self-Sufficient
Courts assess whether the spouse receiving support can become financially independent over time. If re-training or education is needed, the support duration might be extended to allow for this.
Types of Spousal Support Orders
The nature of spousal support can vary, which also impacts its duration:
1. Temporary Support
This is set for a short, specified period, perhaps to assist a spouse while they undergo training or education post-separation.
2. Permanent Support
It’s misleading to think of this as truly “permanent.” Instead, it’s support without a set end date. It remains until circumstances change (e.g., remarriage of the recipient) or if a court deems it necessary to end.
3. Reviewable Support
This is a type of order where the amount or duration of support is open to review after a certain time or event. For example, an ex-spouse will continue to receive support until the child/children turn 18 years of age.
Modification of Spousal Support
It’s worth noting that spousal support is not set in stone. If there’s a significant change in circumstances, either party can request a review. Such changes might include:
- Major health issues.
- Loss of employment.
- Remarriage or cohabitation of the receiving spouse.
- Financial windfall or bankruptcy.
Spousal Support Guidelines: A General Rule
The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) in Ontario provide general rules for the duration of support. For marriages lasting less than 20 years, a general rule is that support lasts between 0.5 and 1 year for each year of marriage. For relationships that exceed 20 years, or if the marriage lasted 5 years and the age of the recipient plus the duration of marriage totals 65 years or more, indefinite support might be suggested.
Being represented by an experienced family lawyer is the first step towards getting spousal support from your ex-partner. Our family lawyers at Sterling Law put our client’s interests first and are dedicated to reaching the desirable outcome. Book a free consultation (up to 30 minutes only) with one of our lawyers today.