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Spousal Support


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Spousal Support is basically the support from one spouse to another following the breakdown of the parties' relationship.  The Family Law Act, R.S.O., 1990 provides that a "spouse" includes either of two individuals who are not married and who (i) have cohabited continuously for a period of not less than three years OR (ii) are in a relationship of some permanence, if they are the natural or adoptive parents of a child.  

Pursuant to the Divorce Act, R.S.C., 1985, the court states in s.15.2(4) that in making a spousal support award, it considers "the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of each spouse, including: 

 (a) the length of time the spouses cohabited; 

(b) the function performed by each spouse during cohabitation; and 

(c) any order, agreement or arrangement relating to support of either spouse."

The OBJECTIVE of spousal support as enunciated in the Divorce Act, R.S.C., 1985 is the following, to: 

(a) recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the marriage or its breakdown;

(b) 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;

(c) relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the marriage; and

(d) in so far as practicable, promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time

In July 2008, the Federal Government produced its Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines.  The status of the Guidelines had been uncertain in the courts until the decision rendered in the Ontario Court of Appeal in Fisher v. Fisher, [2008] O.J. No. 38, 2008 ONCA 11.  In that decision the court decided that the Guidelines were a "useful tool".  The court also stated that the Guidelines could be used as a "cross-check" and a "starting point" that "will help in the long run to bring consistency and predictability to spousal support awards, encourage settlement, and allow parties to anticipate their support responsibilities at the time of separation."   Justice Lang in the decision labelled the Guidelines as a "distillation of current case law" and that they are comparable to "counsel's submissions about an appropriate range of support based on applicable jurisprudence".  As such, it is my opinion that the Guidelines may at this time be relied upon as a guiding and influencing factor in establishing spousal support awards.  

Articles on Spousal Support:

Emerging Trends in Spousal Support - Gene C. Coleman (May 1, 2001)

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines Three Years Later - Carol Rogerson/Rollie Thompson

Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines

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                                                                  Last modified: April 25, 2011 10:24 PM