Legal Guidance on Spousal Support

Under the Divorce Act (1985), a spouse applying for a divorce may bring an application for spousal support. The Divorce Act sets out four factors which will assist in determining whether a spouse is eligible for spousal support. These factors are as follows:

• Economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the marriage or its
   breakdown
• Any financial consequences arising from the care of any child of the marriage
• Relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the marriage
• Promote the self sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time

In determining whether a spouse is eligible for spousal support, many factors must be reviewed. The one factor which is not relevant is the conduct of the spouses. The factors which are relevant include the following:

• The length of the marriage
• The role of each party within the marriage
• The income earning ability of the applicant’s spouse
• The need of the applicant spouse
• Whether the applicant spouse left the work force during the marriage and if so, for how long
• Whether the applicant spouse is able to return to the work force

Once it is determined that a spouse may be eligible for spousal support, the next issue which must be determined is the duration of spousal support, the amount of spousal support and whether the amount shall be paid each month or in one lump sum.

In May 1999, the Domestic Relations Act of Alberta was amended to allow common law spouses to apply for spousal support. The law requires that common law spouses who have no children must have lived together for 3 years continuously to be eligible to apply for spousal support. Where a child has been born to spouses in a common law relationship, a common law spouse may apply for spousal support provided they have lived in a marriage-like relationship with the payor.

The lawyers in our office will fully discuss any issues related to spousal support with our clients including entitlement, quantum and duration.