In B.C., spousal support is often referred to as alimony (an American term) or "spouse support". However, the B.C. courts refer to such payments as "spousal support".
The basic principles of spousal support law in B.C. are as follows:
- Spousal support is a payment from one spouse to another in support of the spouse.
- Spousal support is not child support, which is payable by one parent to another parent in relation to the support of children.
- Spousal support is calculated under the Federal Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. Our online spousal support calculator is based on these guidelines.
You can estimate spousal support payments using our free support calculator, but the legal issue in many cases is not the amount, but whether spousal support should be paid at all. Calculating the amount is fundamentally a math problem, but determining whether one party is entitled to support can involve a complicated, subjective assessment of all the relevant facts.
Our spousal support lawyers have helped thousands of Canadians resolve their support claims. Your financial future might depend on getting the help of an experienced advisor. Call our Vancouver office for a free consultation today, at 604-670-5626.
Who Can Apply for Spousal Support in British Columbia?
Under B.C.'s Family Law Act, a separated spouse can apply for spousal support. Usually, such an application is brought before a divorce is granted, but not always. As long as the applicant is a "spouse" as defined in the Act, it does not matter whether the couple was married or unmarried (common-law).
Read our article on B.C. common-law separation for more information on the rights of unmarried spouses to support.
What is the Purpose of Spouse Support?
When directing the payment of spousal support in B.C., the Courts will either apply the Federal Divorce Act, or the B.C. Family Law Act. The statute that applies depends on the circumstances of the case. Both acts have similar objectives, including:
- addressing the financial consequences of the breakdown of the relationship
- fairly apportioning costs associated with child care, beyond what is addressed by child support
- ensuring both spouses have the opportunity to become financially independent to the extent possible
Punishment is not an objective of spousal support, so bad behaviour is not directly relevant to whether spousal support is payable. Whether the recipient spouse is entitled to support, and for how long, will depend on broader factors going to the nature of the relationship and the impact of the breakdown of the relationship on both parties.
What Factors Determine the Need for Spousal Support?
Factors that are relevant to a decision to award spousal support include the following:
- the financial ability of the payor to pay spousal support
- the financial need of the recipient for spousal support
- any child support that is payable
- whether the payor has prior support obligations
- whether the recipient is being supported financially in a new relationship
- the duration of the relationship
- the responsibilities and conduct of each spouse during the relationship
- whether the recipient is staying at home to raise children
- whether the recipient made career sacrifices for the relationship
- whether the payor's career benefitted from the recipient's contributions
- any prior agreements or course of conduct regarding support
- other circumstances of the relationship and the specific situation of the parties.
This is not a comprehensive list. Spousal support can be highly contentious and is, obviously, very fact specific. Our spousal support lawyers can help you bring or respond to a spousal support claim that is propertly supported by facts and law.
Note that child support has priority over spousal support. In calculating spousal support under the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, child support is first deducted from the income otherwise available to pay spousal support. As a result, in many cases where high child support payments are due, no spousal support is payable, even though the payor spouse may have a much higher income. This will be the result where there is insufficient income to pay spousal support after B.C. child support is accounted for.
The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines
The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are, as the name suggests, advisory guidelines only. They are not binding on the courts. That means a judge may decide to depart from the guidelines and order support in a higher or lower amount than indicated by the guidelines.
That said, B.C. courts tend to follow the Guidelines very closely, and depart only where there are very compelling reasons to do so. In many cases, the range generated by our free spousal support calculator is exactly where the parties will end up.
Our Vancouver Spousal Support Lawyers Can Help
An experienced spousal support lawyer can be a strong advocate in your spousal support claim or defence. Too many times, we have seen unrepresented litigants appear in family court without the knowledge or information required to properly present or respond to a claim. A good lawyer can often present your case in a manner that leads to a different result.
Don't gamble with your financial future. Schedule a free consultation today by calling us in Vancouver at 604-670-5626 or booking with us online.