Ottawa Spousal Support Lawyer

The question of whether one party to a divorce may have to continue financially supporting the other after finalizing the dissolution of their marriage is often a contentious one. While provincial law offers some advisory guidelines about who might owe spousal support and what amount of support would be appropriate under various circumstances, it is possible to convince a court to increase or decrease the payments suggested by law.

Representation from a knowledgeable family lawyer could be essential to protecting your rights during this stage of a divorce from a long-term partner. Whether you want to pursue support payments or contest the need for such support, an Ottawa spousal support lawyer’s assistance could have a substantial impact on your odds of obtaining a favorable resolution.

Who is Entitled to Alimony in Ottawa?

Despite the name, spousal support is not restricted exclusively to individuals who were once married and have since gotten divorced. Courts may also award spousal support in situations where an unmarried couple splits up after cohabiting for at least three years, or when two unmarried people have a child together following a relationship of any length.

Regardless of the nature of your relationship with your former partner, though, you will need to prove that at least one of the following criteria applies in your case for you to be eligible for alimony:

  • You and your ex have a separation or marital agreement that stipulates you will receive spousal support from your former partner in the event of separation or divorce.
  • Your former partner has enough income and/or assets to provide financial support for specific needs you will have after your separation or divorce.
  • You were unable to further your own educational or professional interests during the relationship because you were helping your partner build their own career and/or caring for children at home.

An Ottawa alimony lawyer could help prove your entitlement to spousal support or disprove any of these factors to refute the need for post-divorce spousal maintenance.

Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines Offer a Framework

When making decisions on the amount of spousal support that qualifying individuals should receive, Ottawa family courts begin by following the spousal support advisory guidelines outlined under provincial law. These guidelines tend to focus heavily on the length of the relationship above all other factors, allowing for higher payments following the dissolution of longer relationships. Additionally, there are two different spousal maintenance formulas for situations where child support is or is not a factor.

Spousal Support with Child Support

When a separating couple has children, the higher-earning partner often pays child support and spousal support. Under the Divorce Act Section 15.3, if the higher-earning partner does not have the financial capacity to provide child support and spousal support, the court must prioritize child support.

If the higher-earning partner can pay both, courts use the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines to calculate the amount of the paying parent’s obligation. The guidelines use a formula based on each partner’s Individual Net Disposable Income (INDI).

Multiple fact-specific nuances could affect the INDI calculation, including the percentage of time children spend with each parent. An Ottawa legal advisor like Paul Riley could provide a reasonable estimate of the spousal support that might be payable in your case.

Spousal Support without Child Support

If there is no child support payment, spousal support depends on the length of the relationship. Time spent cohabitating prior to marriage counts toward the calculation. If the parties never married, the start of the relationship for this calculation is the date when they began cohabitating.

When there is no child support payment, spousal support is a percentage of the difference in the spouses’ incomes, multiplied by years of marriage. The maximum spousal support payment would be 50 percent, or half the payor’s income.

Duration of Spousal Support Obligations

Spousal support orders can be of limited or indefinite duration. The factors that courts use to determine the duration of spousal support depend on whether there are children requiring care and support. Alimony laws in Ottawa intend to balance the need to protect a spouse who might be financially disadvantaged by divorce with the hope that the spouse will eventually be self-supporting. The law also recognizes that older people might have difficulty securing a position that pays a living wage when re-entering the job market after a long absence.

When there are no children at home, a spousal support order typically calls for six months to one year of support for every year of cohabitation. However, support could be indefinite if a marriage lasted more than 20 years. Indefinite alimony is also possible if a marriage lasted more than five years and the duration of marriage added to the receiving spouse’s age is 65 or more (the Rule of 65). For example, a 55-year-old spouse divorcing after ten years of marriage could be entitled to indefinite spousal support.

When there are school-aged children, the duration of alimony considers their need to have a parent at home. At the low end, spousal support might last for half the years the parents cohabitated or until the youngest child attends school full-time, whichever is longer. This formula usually guides alimony for marriages that lasted less than ten years. For longer marriages, spousal support duration could be the longer of the years the couple cohabitated or until the youngest child finishes high school. The Rule of 65 also applies in these cases.

Deviations From the Spousal Support Guidelines

The Spousal Support Guidelines offer a useful starting point. However, there are various other things a court may take into consideration when deciding how much spousal support a particular person may owe or be entitled to receive, such as:

  • Each party’s ability to support themselves independently post-divorce
  • Each party’s age, as well as their overall physical and mental health
  • The presence of children produced by the relationship, and who was primarily responsible—if anyone—for caring for those children
  • Whether the two parties had a substantial difference in income while they were together

Your specific situation dictates how much spousal support you might pay or receive. Changes in circumstances could merit revisiting an alimony order and seeking a modification. In addition, special considerations apply to high-income and low-income families. A spousal support lawyer in Ottawa could provide custom-tailored guidance about how a particular case might play out based on your unique circumstances and needs.

Contact an Ottawa Alimony Lawyer Today

Spousal support does not play a role in every divorce or separation, but when it does, the same rules and guidelines do not apply equally to all cases. Put simply, understanding your rights and effectively advocating for your best interests during alimony proceedings is not something you should try to manage without professional legal guidance.

A seasoned Ottawa spousal support lawyer could offer the help you need to achieve the result you want. Our family lawyer, Paul Riley, is available 24 hours a day, so call at any time to schedule a consultation.

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