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Disputes over spousal support, also referred to as alimony, can be one of the most contentious aspects of a separation or divorce. The idea of making payments to a former partner can evoke anger and other strong emotions. This can become an extremely heated issue very quickly.
At Arbesman Hamilton LLP, our clients turn to us for our pragmatic approach to family law issues, including spousal support. We help our clients see the big picture and focus on the end goal by helping them assess “what am I really fighting about?” We are forthright and will not drive up costs by taking unnecessary actions or counselling you to take a path which may prolong your dispute. We have assisted hundreds of clients through some of the most challenging circumstances in their lives, and have ensured their rights and interests were protected.
We have also advised clients on proactively mitigating risk and planning for their future using pre-nuptial agreements. A well-drafted and valid pre-nuptial agreement (also known as a pre-nup or a marriage contract) can serve to limit or prevent spousal support payments should the couple separate or divorce in the future.
Spousal support is available to both married and common-law spouses. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just men who pay spousal support to women. Women can also pay spousal support to men, and same-sex former partners to one another. There are all different types of spousal support arrangements, all of which tend to be arrived at contentiously.
Entitlement to spousal support is not automatic. To be eligible for support, there must first be an agreement to entitlement between the separating partners, or a finding of eligibility.
There are three main approaches to spousal support:
Spousal support decisions are made with reference to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG). As the name suggests, the SSAG are intended to provide a guideline for spousal support decisions, including the amount that should be paid. The SSAG are not mandatory, unlike the Child Support Guidelines, but courts refer to them when making spousal support determinations. The SSAG provides a range of appropriate spousal support based on several factors, including the length of the relationship, the incomes of each spouse, the age of each spouse, whether they had any children, the number of children, and the age of the children.
Like the amount of spousal support to be paid, the duration of spousal support will depend on several factors involved in the relationship, such as whether the spouse receiving the support is employed, as well as the length of the marriage (and any preceding co-habitation). A court will make an assessment based on the specific circumstances of each former couple. The court order for spousal support may indicate how long the support is to be paid for, and may either indicate an end date, or include a clause stipulating that it will be reviewed if a certain event occurs (for instance, if one party remarries).
Where a payor spouse’s gross annual income exceeds $350,000, different spousal support considerations apply. Above that amount, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines stop, and considerations such as length of marriage do not apply in the same way. This $350,000 ceiling is not a hard cap, however, and spousal support can increase where the payor spouses has income exceeding this amount. That amount will depend on the court’s consideration of the specific facts of each case.
Contact Arbesman Hamilton LLP as soon as possible if you are contemplating a separation, or have already begun the process. We are dedicated to pursuing your interests and getting exceptional results. Let us focus on your rights and negotiate the best possible outcome for you while you focus on rebuilding and moving on. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation.
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