The law views marriage as a legal merging of assets, and if it breaks down, one spouse is often left with less than the other. While it is expected that adults in the process of divorce make all efforts to support themselves, it is often the case that the spouse with a higher income or more assets will be responsible for supporting the other spouse.

As you may know, child support amounts are clearly and concisely outlined in the Federal and Provincial Child Support Guidelines. The formula is simple and is calculated based on the paying parent’s income and the number of children. Payment of child support is automatic and non-negotiable.

Spousal support is a completely difference game. Unlike child support, payment of spousal support is not automatic, nor is the amount simply calculated. On the contrary, it is an extremely complex calculation that is difficult even for seasoned lawyers to predict. Several years ago, two University of Toronto professors created the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines; a formula for calculating the quantum of spousal support to be paid. Considerations include the length of the marriage, how difficult it would be for the spouse to become self-sufficient, the difference in income between the spouses, and any perceived sacrifices the economically disadvantaged spouse may have made for the sake of the marriage. Ultimately, the Advisory Guidelines are just that: Guidelines. Whether or not spousal support will be ordered and the quantum of the support is at the discretion of the judge, taking into consideration all of the specific circumstances of the relationship.

Both common law and married spouses are entitled to make a claim for spousal support. Married spouses are entitled to support under the federal Divorce Act, and common law spouses under the provincial Family Law Act. Entitlement to spousal support applies to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

Family lawyers often use a specialized program called “DivorceMate” to produce a spousal support calculation pursuant to the Advisory Guidelines. MyOntarioDivorce.com and Berman Barristers offer this calculation for a flat-rate fee.

For more information on spousal support, DivorceMate calculations, and other family law matters, please visit MyOntarioDivorce.com or BermanBarristers.com.

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