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Family law: What factors determine spousal support?

Spousal support is a fixed amount of money paid by one former spouse to the other after a divorce -- regardless of whether the couple had children. Under family law, the federal Divorce Act that applies to couples across Canada, including in British Columbia, governs spousal support. In most cases -- although not in all -- a spouse who earns considerably more than the other is ordered to pay spousal support. However, each case is unique and treated by the family court as such.

When considering an application for spousal support, the court will look to see whether one spouse sacrificed a career or high income to care for the household or children during the marriage. It may also take into account the fact that one spouse has financial needs that can be eliminated with the help of the other. In most cases, the court will want to see that the spousal support is a temporary arrangement while the receiver re-enters the job market or become self-sufficient in another way.

The court will examine the financial needs and means of each spouse, the length of the marriage and the roles each spouse had in the marriage. Furthermore, the effect of the breakup on the financial stability of both spouses will be considered, along with the needs of the children and their care. The court will encourage the spouse seeking support to take steps to become self-supportive, and it will also take into account any financial arrangements the couple might have made through negotiations or a marriage agreement.

Some British Columbia couples can sit down and reach agreements about all the matters related to child issues, property division and more. However, it might be appropriate for each to consult with a family law lawyer who can make sure nothing is left unaddressed. Each party's lawyer can protect his or her legal rights and scrutinise any agreements to ensure compliance with the applicable laws.

Source: FindLaw Canada, "Spousal support", Miriam Yosowich, Accessed on May 11, 2017

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