Spousal support is a payment that one spouse makes to another after the marriage or common law relationship has broken down and the spouses have separated. It is what some spouses commonly refer to as "alimony".
If an agreement about spousal support cannot be worked out by the spouses, you may go to court and a judge may order one spouse to pay spousal support to the other.
Who is entitled to spousal support?
There are several factors a judge will look at to determine if spousal support should be paid. A judge will look at:
- how long you were married and how long you may have lived together before you were married.
- a spouse’s skills and whether that spouse has the ability to get a job and earn a living.
- whether or not a spouse gave up a job and opportunities that go with having a job.
- whether one spouse stayed home and looked after the children, allowing the other spouse to benefit by being able to earn money
- contribution a spouse made to the relationship and whether the other spouse benefited from that.
- whether a spouse is able to become economically independent, so they will take into account the cost of things such as training courses, or going back to school.
- the financial circumstances of each spouse after the separation.
What if the other spouse refuses to pay?
Once a spousal support order is made by a court, or if the spouses entered into a Separation Agreement, the payor spouse is bound by law to pay and there are a number of legal avenues to enforce payment.
What if financial circumstances change?
It may be possible to ask the court to vary the amount of spousal support that is paid after a final spousal support order is made, but generally the court will want to be assured that the change in circumstances was material and unforeseen. Attempting to change the amount of spousal support at a later date can be a complicated legal issue which should be discussed with one of our lawyers. Everyone’s case is different.
How long must a spouse pay spousal support?
There is no hard and fast answer. Spouses have an obligation to become financially independent. On the other hand, a judge may order the spousal support payments to continue indefinitely. Everyone’s case is different and our family law lawyers can assist you with this.