Spousal Support

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Spousal or partner support is the payment from one spouse to the other following the breakdown of a marriage or common law relationship. Payments are commonly made monthly, but may be at other intervals or just one lump sum. Spousal support is the term used for married couples, and is covered by the Divorce Act. Adult interdependent partner support is the term used for common law couples, and is covered by the Alberta Family Law Act and Adult Interdependent Relationships Act.

The mere breakdown of a relationship does not necessarily mean that a spouse or common law partner is entitled to support. Entitlement usually arises from two types of situations:

Entitlement or non-entitlement may also arise from a contract, such as pre-nuptial agreement, separation agreement, or minutes of settlement.

Only after determining the issue of entitlement should a spouse consider how much (quantum) and how long (duration) support may be payable. There are many factors, including, but not limited to: the length of the relationship; the spouses respective roles; the effect of debts or other financial obligations; other assets available to the spouses; the impact of child support; the spouses ages; career or education plans; and illness, disability, or other personal factors.

There are spousal support advisory guidelines that can assist in calculating support. The advisory guidelines are not law like the child support guidelines, and care must be exercised when using them. Notably, the guidelines do not address entitlement and there are different formulas depending on if there are children. Because the guidelines are not law, even if a party is entitled to support a judge does not have to follow the guidelines. Support may be ordered within the range or outside the range. In Alberta in particular, the analysis of support is extremely fact specific and judges have the ultimate discretion of whether to award support, and if so, to set the quantum and duration.

Where support is payable there are many other issues to consider, including:

This is a very brief overview and cannot tell you everything you need to know as every situation is different and the law is very complex.

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