Spousal support is part of the post-separation economic re-adjustment package. To receive spousal support, there are four factors to consider: eligibility, entitlement, quantum, and duration.
In Ontario, any married or common law individual is eligible to receive spousal support. As a common-law couple however, you must have been living with your spouse for a period of at least three years, in a relationship of some permanence.
In common law relationships, to prove that a relationship was of some permanence, the courts will consider: i) whether the parties lived under the same roof; ii) sexual and personal behaviour; iii) the conduct of service of the parties towards one another; iv) whether they appeared as a couple to the public; v) integration of financial assets and finally, vi) children they may share.
The law explicitly precludes a court from considering misconduct in a relationship when determining eligibility. For this reason, infidelity will not be a cause triggering spousal support. The courts will take into consideration the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of each spouse, including 3 specific factors: i) the length of cohabitation; ii) the functions performed by each spouse, and iii) any order, agreement, or arrangement relating to support.
The objectives of spousal support are to (a) recognize recipient spouse’s contribution to the relationship and the economic consequences of the relationship for the spouse; (b) share the economic burden of child support equitably; (c) make fair provisions to assist the spouse to become able to contribute to his or her own support; and (d) relieve financial hardship.
There are three primary models for determining if and what you are entitled to receive as spousal support:
The Needs Based Model:
The basic rationale for spousal support under this model is based on economic need. It takes into account that it is the primary responsibility of the family to provide a cushion of income security to spouses who are unable to meet their own needs. This is one of the obligations which is undertaken in marriage. It is irrelevant whether the marriage itself caused the financial need, but the idea is to put an individual at a standard of living most closely resembling their lifestyle while married.
The Contractual Model:
In the contractual model, support is founded in any express or implied agreement (often a Marriage Contract) between the spouses to create or limit their mutual support obligations.
The Compensatory Model:
This model seeks to compensate a spouse for economic disadvantages which they have suffered or undertaken as a result of their marriage. It also seeks to compensate the same individuals who conferred economic advantages to the other spouse during the marriage. Claims are often based on the need to compensate a spouse who has sacrificed his/her career, or taken a back seat in the labour force in order to perform family responsibilities.
The calculations depend on whether there are children involved, in which case courts will apply a different formula to compute the amount. These amounts are not statutorily binding, and often in Ontario courts, judges will award what they think is reasonable given the implementation of all the factors considered in this journal.
NOTE: This article has been written for general information purposes only and does NOT constitute legal advice. For further questions and/or legal advice please consult a qualified lawyer.