Spouse Support Under Alberta Law

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How spouse support payments work.

Spouse support is also referred to as alimony or spousal support. If you are part of a marriage or partnership that is ending, you may be wondering how spousal or partner support (which will be referred to jointly as spousal support moving forward) will affect your future. Does an entitlement to this support exist for you? Will you face paying your spouse support? This uncertainty causes many clients stress.

The answers to these questions are important, and can have a major impact on your financial well being. Please keep in mind that spousal support, spouse support and alimony are all different terms to describe the same thing. The spousal support lawyers at Kahane Law Office help clients in Calgary and surrounding areas. For help please email us as below or call 403-225-8810.

This overview of spousal support in Alberta is drawn from information provided by the Alberta Courts, and is not meant to be used as legal advice for your divorce case. These are generalities about the law. Each individual case can differ significantly, and you should contact an Alberta family lawyer to receive personalized guidance for your divorce.

Who Can Apply For Spousal Support In Alberta?

Couples applying for divorce, and sometimes couples who previously divorced, have an ability to apply for spouse support. The court may also order the payment of support if the couple is ending an Adult Interdependent Relationship.

This is an interdependent relationship that has lasted for three years, or one in which the couple has a child together. A childless couple that has been together for less than three years could have this legal status if they signed an Adult Interdependent Partnership agreement.

What Is The Intended Purpose Of Spouse Support?

When ordering spousal support in Alberta, the courts will apply either the Divorce Act, which is a federal Act, or the Family Law Act, which is specific to Alberta. Also note, that while provincial laws vary, strict rules exist that limit “forum shopping”. This means that starting an action in one province to fall under favorable laws is not allowed. Courts only hear matters which properly fall under their jurisdiction. The objectives of each act are similar, and include:

  • Identifying financial advantages and disadvantages faced by the spouses that occur because of the end of the marriage or partnership
  • Fairly dividing financial costs relating to child care, above and beyond child support
  • Providing as much support as possible to help each spouse to become financially independent within a reasonable amount of time

These Acts state that spousal support should not be a factor in awarding spousal support. The payment of support is not intended to be a form of punishment. Laws also protect from spousal support double dipping. Further, while the courts recognize the contributions of both parties during a marriage, other important factors also apply. For example, the courts also want to move individuals to financial independence. This means that a requirement, depending on age and circumstances, to seek out and secure employment often exists.

What Factors Determine The Need For Spousal Support?

Understanding the law as it applies to your unique situations remains the first step to understanding your rights an obligations under the law. When the courts determine if spousal support is appropriate to order, they take into account several factors. For example, these factors include:

  • The amount of time the couple lived together;
  • The responsibilities of each partner during this time; and lastly
  • Any previous agreements or arrangements the parties agree to regarding support.

The above factors are taken into account in all cases. If the couple is not applying for spousal support as part of a divorce, such as when applying after the end of an Adult Interdependent Relationship, the Family Law Act of Alberta will apply. In that case, the court takes into account the following additional factors into consideration when making a ruling:

  • Whether or not either partner has a legal obligation to support another person, including children; and
  • If either partner is going to be living with someone else, and how this other person contributes to their living expenses. The court looks at how this arrangement increases the partner’s ability to pay support, or decreases their need for spouse support.

Child Support

Children and their rights remain an important part of both federal and provincial laws in Canada. Children’s rights come first. Both the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act give child support a higher priority than spousal support. If a spouse cannot afford to pay both, it is the spousal support amount that the courts decrease. At the same time, child support is not a replacement for spouse support. In fact, these rights remain so important that a parent lacks the ability to legally waive them when negotiating their divorce.

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines

The Alberta Courts often use the Spousal Support Guidelines to determine how much support will be paid by taking into consideration the gross income of each spouse, the number of years the couple lived together, and any childcare expenses. These are simply advisory guidelines, however, and judges lack any legal requirement to strictly follow them. This is another reason why it is beneficial to have the counsel and representation of an Alberta divorce lawyer during this process. It avoids orders not in your best legal interest. Undoing them later creates increased stress and costs.

We also have free family law information links here.

Our Calgary Spouse Support Lawyers Help

As a firm we pride ourselves on exceptional service. That is easy to say and more difficult to prove. The Top Choice Awards recognized Kahane Law Office as the Top Family Law Firm In Calgary. Our whole team is proud of this accomplishment. If you want a knowledgeable law firm that offers exceptional service, please reach out today.

To schedule a appointment with one of our spouse support (or Alimony) lawyers to discuss your entitlements and obligations or to change your existing spousal support, please contact our experienced team at Kahane Law Office. You can reach us toll-free at 1-877-225-8817, or 403-225-8810 locally in Calgary, Alberta or email us directly here.