Entitlement to Spousal Support in BC

The BC Courts can order temporary or permanent spousal support based on the following criteria:

  1. the length of time the spouses cohabited;
  2. the functions performed by each spouse during cohabitation; and
  3. any order, agreement or arrangement relating to support of either spouse.

The objectives behind why spousal support are as follows:

  1. recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the marriage or its breakdown;
  2. apportion between the spouses any financial consequences arising from the care of any child of the marriage over and above any obligation for the support of any child of the marriage;
  3. relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the marriage; and
  4. in so far as practicable, promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time.

Types of Spousal Support

There are three types of spousal support:

  1. compensatory,
  2. non-compensatory, and
  3. contractual support.

Before the court grants spousal support, it considers the age, gender, skills, education, opportunity for retraining, and the realistic prospect of the recipient spouse finding a job that enables him or her to become self-sufficient. The court will then choose which type or combination of types of spousal support to use.

In Canada we have a ‘no fault’ system so for example if your spouse cheated on you that is not a basis for not paying spousal support as unfair as it may seem.

Compensatory Spousal Support

The reason why the courts order spousal support is to “to relieve economic hardship that results from marriage or its breakdown”. Spousal support is meant “to promote the equitable sharing of the economic consequences of marriage or marriage breakdown” (Moge v. Moge).

Compensatory support usually gets granted in long marriages where one spouse stayed at home to raise the children while the other found the freedom to go out and work or go to school. Upon marriage break down, of course the spouse who stayed at home and didn’t work or go to school will be disadvantaged and should be compensated. In these situations, the court will try give the disadvantaged spouse the same standard of living he/she enjoyed during the marriage. That is of course dependent on the ability of the other spouse to pay for such standard after separation.

Spousal support can sometimes be achieved by for example giving the disadvantaged spouse more property or lump sum spousal support. It is meant to ‘equalize’ the standards of living and is future looking.

Non-compensatory Support

This type of spousal support usually happens in short marriages (and sometimes in long marriages) and is determined based on the needs of the receiving spouse and the means of the payor.

Marriage itself does not automatically entitle a spouse to support. However, in some circumstances, marriage may give rise to a support obligation based on financial need. The spouse in need needs to be supported by his/her ex-spouse and not the public. If your spouse for example becomes disabled after marriage and needs more support, that responsibility may fall on you even if the marriage was only a few months old. Saying your spouse has rich parents and the parents can support him/her is not going to fly in court, FYI.

None-compensatory support is usually time-limited and lasts for a certain amount of time. It is often determined based on the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines which provides a range of spousal support. The court has the discretion to choose which range and whether to follow the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines all together.

More and more, however, the courts follow the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines calculations which can be obtained by using Divorce Mate calculations.

Spousal support can be awarded based on both the compensatory or non-compensatory principles. It is a complicated area of law and depending on your case, you can win or lose a fortune on spousal support.

It is always best to speak with family lawyer to find out whether you should pay spousal support and if so, how much? Contact Us.

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