Family Law / Divorce Library

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Spousal Support:
Spousal support and Partner Support Basics

Spousal support and Partner Support Basics

Spousal support is typically a monthly payment meant to share income. We use the term "spousal support" for spouses who were married, and "partner support" for couples who were not married. In other countries and in TV/movies, spousal support is sometimes called maintenance or alimony.

Spousal/partner support are not always paid monthly. Sometimes it's even paid all at once or in a few instalments, referred to as Lump sum spousal support.

When making spousal support decisions, judges court must take into consideration the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of each spouse, including:

  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.

Section 15.2(6) of the Divorce Act states that spousal support orders should:

  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.

Before a court will order that spousal support be paid, it must first find that a spouse is entitled to spousal support. Entitlement to spousal support is essentially based on either:

  1. economic advantages or disadvantages arising from the marriage or its breakdown (Compensatory support);
  2. financial need (Non-Compensatory Support); or
  3. an agreement, such as a settlement agreement, pre-nuptial agreement, or cohabitation agreement.

While courts have broad discretion when awarding spousal support, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines help guide them.

Unlike child support, spousal support and partner support are taxable income for which the recipient will need to pay taxes. Similarly, spousal support is tax deductible by the payor when paid according to a written agreement or court order. The payor can file a Form T1213 with the Canada Revenue Agency to request that their employer reduce their employee tax deductions. These tax rules only apply when spousal support is paid periodically, for example each month. Support is not taxable income nor tax deductible when paid as a Lump Sum.

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Spousal Support:
Spousal support and Partner Support Basics


Content by Ken Proudman of BARR LLP (Edmonton)

Last updated on November 12, 2022

Last complete review of all content on this page on November 12, 2022

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