You may separate from your spouse or get divorced, but this doesn’t mean your obligations will end. Instead, there is a chance you might have to pay spousal support in Ontario.
The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines rule these payments, and it is important to understand them in detail to make your obligations on time.
So, if you are going through a separation or divorce, whether with your common-law partner or spouse, you have come to the right place.
We have created a complete guide to spousal support in Ontario to clarify any misconceptions.
What is Spousal Support?
Spousal support is your monetary obligation to your spouse after separation or divorce. The purpose is to ensure financial support for their well-being.
Many people also refer to spousal support in Ontario as maintenance or alimony. You can either pay this amount in a lump sum or every month.
According to the Divorce Act, here are a few reasons why you might have to pay for spousal support:
- Compensating the spouse for care of children above the child support table amount
- To ensure compensation of one spouse who sacrificed his/her ability to earn during the marriage
- Help the spouse in terms of finances because of the marriage termination or breakdown
Please note that any spouse receiving support also has the obligation to become self-sufficient where it is reasonable to do so.
How a Judge Will Determine Spousal Support in Ontario?
If the marriage breaks down into separation or divorce, either spouse can ask for support under the Divorce Act. Typically, the spouse earning the lower income will be asking for spousal support in Ontario.
Here are the top factors a judge will take into account before deciding whether you are eligible for spousal support:
- Financial means of both spouses
- The circumstances and needs of both parties
- Timeframe spouses have lived together
- Any previous agreement, arrangement, or order you have made regarding spousal support
- Responsibilities of child care (if there are children)
- Role of each spouse within the marriage and its effects
- How the breakdown of the marriage will affect the roles and the financial position of each spouse
After assessing these factors, a judge will determine if anyone in the marriage will receive spousal support in Ontario.
Spousal Support for Married Couples in Ontario
According to Section 15 (2) of the Divorce Act, there are three reasons why you would be entitled to alimony in Ontario. These include the following:
- Contractual Basis: This takes effect when you have a pre-existing marriage contract (prenup or postnup) or cohabitation agreement, separation agreement, or any other valid contract of the domestic relationship that will cover spousal support if the marriage breaks down
- Compensatory Basis: This is when a spouse has given up their career or potential income to take care of domestic affairs while the other spouse has maintained their career
- Non-Compensatory or Needs-Based Basis: If the marriage breakdown leaves one spouse at a financial disadvantage that can’t be corrected, then the spouse with the higher income will have to pay the support
Separation Agreement Spousal Support in Marriage
If you created a separation agreement in Ontario with spousal support, then this can be agreed to. You can also make this agreement a part of your court order.
Interim Support Order
The court also has the discretion to create an interim support order through Subsection 15.2(2). This temporary spousal support order will take care of the situation for the married couple till a final order is made during a trial or the parties agree without needing a trial.
Please remember that the court will apply rough justice standards when determining support arrangements through the interim order. The ability of the spouse to pay and the receiver’s financial need will be considered before any decision-making.
The courts can also make an order for retroactive adjustment of an interim payment. Doing this will correct any under or overpayment of spousal support in Ontario that was the result of this interim order.
Spousal Support in Domestic Partnerships or Common Law Relationships
The Family Law Act will be applicable in the case of common law or domestic partnerships in Canada. The courts will take into account various factors when determining spousal support, which include the following:
- The living arrangements of the couple
- Financial circumstances, means, needs, and conditions
- Societal and social functions
- Effects of financial arrangements, contributions, and roles after the breakdown of the relationship
- The interests and age of the children (if any) and their care and responsibility
- Financial self-sufficiency of each spouse
- Relief of financial hardship (if this hasn’t been done through property orders)
Please note that regardless of your partner’s conduct, you have an obligation to pay for spousal support in Ontario if that is what the court has deemed appropriate.
Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG): What You Must Know
Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) need to be taken into account when determining spousal support. Your lawyer or judge will use the guidelines to calculate the spousal support amount in Ontario.
These guidelines assist the court in making fair decisions for all parties involved. However, the judiciary uses them more to guide decisions on the matter with time.
If you want to know more about how these guidelines affect spousal support payments, you can connect with your lawyer. They have a software dedicated to this.
It applies the guidelines to your specific circumstances and creates a range for the duration and amount of the support. Because of this, we recommend hiring a spousal support lawyer to understand these guidelines even better.
How is Spousal Support Determined in Ontario: The Ontario Spousal Support Calculator
According to the spousal support advisory guidelines, there are two ways to calculate spousal support. These include with and without child support.
It is crucial to understand how each formula is used to determine spousal support in Ontario.
Please note that these are rough calculations and estimations to help you understand this factor. They are not meant to be exact.
1. Two Formulas to Calculate Spousal Support
There are two formulas to determine spousal support in Ontario. We will review each in detail to help you understand better what is applicable to your case:
With Child Support
When child support is also included in the formula, it ensures that the right of the children to financial security is not harmed. The child support will be calculated first, and then your spousal support will be calculated.
If you have been separated from your spouse, and the financial means are limited, then your support will be low. Please note that the with-child formula for spousal support is based on the INDI (Individual Net Disposable Income) of both parties.
The amount will be different for the payer and recipient as explained below:
- Amount for the payer: This will include the income amount – child support – deductions & taxes + government credits & benefits
- The amount for the recipient: This amount will include the income amount – national child support – deductions & taxes + any government credits and benefits
Both of these calculations will be done, and they will be added to the INDI calculation. Lawyers have special software that can conduct this calculation with ease for you.
Example of Spousal Support Calculation with Child Support
Let’s say the monthly gross income of Spouse A is $100,000/12 = $8,333.33 per month.
For them, the cost of child support in Ontario for two children will be $1,471. There won’t be any applicable government benefits, and the income tax will be around 30%, which amounts to $2,499.
So the INDI calculation for Spouse A will be $8,333 – $1,471 – $2,499 = $4363.
On the other hand, let’s say the monthly gross income of Spouse B is $75,000/12 = $6,250. The child support they will receive from Spouse A will be $1,471.
They will also pay 20% in taxes, which means $6,250 x 20% = $1,250. The benefits they receive will be $550.
So, the INDI calculation for Spouse B will be $6,250 + $1,471 + $550 – $1,250 = $7,021.
After having both calculations, you add them, which amounts to $11,384. Now, you will have to put the support range in these numbers and then subtract the INDI of Spouse B.
Only then you will get the child support amounts for the month. A lawyer will help you understand better how spousal support in Ontario will be calculated with child support payments.
Without Child Support
The other formula for calculating spousal support is without the child support payments. Now, the general rule of the amount will depend on how long you and your spouse have been together.
As the length of the relationship increases, the amount of spousal support will also increase. The support amount will range between 1.5 and 2% of the difference in the spouse’s gross income for each year of the relationship to a maximum of 50%.
Duration will become indefinite after twenty years of marriage. If you want in-depth information, we recommend you connect with a spousal support lawyer to learn more.
2. Split Custody
A judge or lawyer can also determine spousal support in Ontario through a split custody situation. Both parents have primary parenting time for the children in such a situation.
For example, one daughter may live with the mother, and the other one may reside with the father. The formula for such a situation will require a table amount deduction from each of the parents.
The logic behind doing it is that in this situation, both of the parents will spend a large proportion of their income on supporting the child. Because of this, there will be less INDI remaining to pay to the spouse.
3. Sharing Parenting Time
Parenting time has arrangements where each party has 40% of parenting time with the children. You will have to make adjustments to the basic “with child” support formula in this situation.
Please note that just because you have shared parenting time doesn’t mean that the spousal support amount will decrease. However, the courts will have to adjust the amount in such a way that the spousal support payments are appropriate for both parties.
4. High or Low-Income Earner Special Rules
There are also special rules for high or low-income earners. According to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, if the payer has an annual gross of over $350,000, then the formula should not be applied automatically because the result will be unequal.
You must not think of it as a cap on spousal support. That is because most of the time, the spousal support will increase for people above this income level.
It is up to the courts to decide how to fix the spousal support in Ontario in cases where the payer has a high net worth. On the other hand, if the payer has a low income of $20,000 or lower, then they will not have to pay any spousal support.
5. Custodial Payor in Ontario
In certain circumstances, the parent with the primary parenting time will also have to pay spousal support. The court will have to utilize a different formula to reflect such a case.
If you want more information regarding this, you can get in touch with the spousal support lawyer in Ontario to help you. They will assess your case and let you know what payments will be applicable to you.
Can the Spousal Support Amount Change?
There are certain circumstances where the spousal support in Ontario can change. These include the following circumstances:
1. A Reduction in Income
In the event that there is a reduction in the payer’s income, spousal support amounts may also change. For example, if the income significantly reduces, then the court may decide that spousal support in Ontario will not be necessary.
Priority will be given to child support first, and then the spouse. On the other hand, if there is a temporary reduction in income, then the court might decide to attach additional review terms to the spousal support order.
2. An Increase in Income
An increase in the income of the payer will move the SSAG range down even further. This means that the amount of spousal support will also be reduced.
The court will try to encourage the spouse to work towards self-sufficiency. They will do this through a clause that will allow a recipient to earn up to a fixed amount (which will also be low).
3. Motion to Change
Both parties can also request a Motion to Change for contested spousal support problems. They will request the court to provide a ruling on this matter.
The party that has opted for the order to vary should prove that there has been a material change in the conditions, circumstances, needs, or means.
For it to be a material change, it should be one that results in different terms if the circumstance would have existed at the time of the original spousal support order.
Please note that such a test is challenging to meet. For example, changes in employment, remarriage, and retirement are foreseeable changes based on the circumstances of both parties.
So, it is up to the court to decide whether the new circumstance will count as a material change for spousal support in Ontario.
How Long Does Spousal Support Last: Spousal Support Duration in Ontario
The duration of spousal support in Ontario can range from half to one year for each year the couple was living together or married. However, if the spouses were married for twenty years, then it would become indefinite.
The exact duration will depend on the specific case and various factors such as the spouse’s ability to pay, shared debts, how long the marriage lasted, and more.
The court will take all of these factors into account before deciding how long it will last. In some cases, it can be till half the time of the marriage or the full length of the marriage.
When Does Spousal Support End?
The spousal support in Ontario will end based on the court order. Once the court gives the spousal support order, the payer has to make the payments until:
- Both parties agree to change the terms of the spousal support agreement
- The court changes the order
- In your court order, there were legal conditions for ending spousal support payments, which have been met
On the other hand, a court can also change the order if you and your spouse consent to significant changes in the circumstances. If you and your spouse want to change these payments, you can get in touch with your family lawyer.
If your separation agreement had certain conditions for ending spousal support payments, and these have been met, then the spousal support in Ontario will stop between you and your spouse.
Does Spousal Support End When You Remarry in Ontario?
Under the SSAG 14.7 guidelines, remarriage or repartnering of the support recipient doesn’t lead to automatic termination of the support. Instead, the spousal support amount can be reduced.
In some cases, the court can decide to terminate the support if you don’t need it anymore. The courts will review your situation and then decide the best course of action based on the facts of the case.
Does Spousal Support in Ontario Affect Taxes?
Yes, spousal support in Ontario is deductible and taxable. You can think of these payments as any other type of income.
The recipient is responsible for reporting these payments to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as taxable income. They also have to pay income tax on the payments.
So, if you are the recipient of these payments, make sure you file this income tax to avoid any issues further down the line.
What to do If Your Spouse Refuses to Make Spousal Support Payments
There are certain circumstances where the payer can refuse to meet their obligations and stop spousal support payments. The FRO (Family Responsibility Office) deals with such matters, or you can take the matter to court.
Here is what you need to know about each route to make an informed decision:
Take the Help of the FRO
You will have to file an agreement or order with the FRO, and they will have the authority to recover the money that your ex-spouse owes you.
The FRO can take the following actions to ensure that spousal support payments take place on time:
- Report the payer to the Credit Bureau
- Garnish the payer’s bank account
- Suspend the driver’s license of the payer
- Report the payer to their organization
- Seize the lottery winnings of the individual
- Start a default hearing, which can lead to a jail time of 180 days
- Suspend the passport or any other licenses granted by the Federal Government
- Place a lien on the property of the payer
- Garnish the money the payer is entitled to receive from the Canadian Government
It is up to the FRO to ensure that the payer receives serious repercussions for not meeting their obligations. Even your divorce lawyer in Ontario can help you with this process and ensure you can recover your money without any hassle.
Take the Court’s Help
Another option you have at your disposal is to take the court’s help. You can go to court by yourself to enforce the court order or the separation agreement.
The court can take measures such as:
- Deducting the support payments from the wages, bank account, or retirement savings of your spouse
- Take the employer of your spouse to court to deduct the amount directly from the wages
If you are still unsure what route to take, then you can take the help of a professional family lawyer to help you understand the forms you must submit and how you can enforce your right to spousal support.
When is Spousal Support Denied in Ontario?
If the recipient is self-sufficient and one can determine that they don’t need support, then they will not be entitled to spousal support in Ontario.
On the other hand, a court can also deny spousal support applications if the case involves young people, a short-lived relationship, or no involvement of children.
Can spousal support be paid in a lump sum in Ontario?
According to the FLA and the Divorce Act, you can pay spousal support in a lump sum or through periodic payments. How you will be paying spousal support in Ontario will depend on the court order and your circumstances.
Is there a time limit to apply for spousal support in Ontario?
There is no time limit to bring a claim for spousal or child support as long as the individual is legally entitled to this support under the relevant laws. However, if you take too long to file a claim, then this can hurt your chances of receiving spousal support in Ontario.
What are the two types of spousal support in Canada?
Compensatory and non-compensatory are the two types of spousal support in Canada.
Do I have to support my wife after divorce?
Under the Divorce Act, your wife can ask for spousal support if she has a lower income. If this is the case, then you might have to support your wife after the divorce. However, this will depend on the specific details of your case.
Contact a Spousal Support Lawyer to Learn More
That was everything you needed to know about spousal support in Ontario. If you are still confused regarding some matters and need some clarity, then it is crucial to talk to a spousal support lawyer.
Athena Narsingh is a trusted family lawyer who can help you with such matters. For more information, get in touch with the office or book a consultation to clarify any matter.
- Athena Narsingh is a trusted and knowledgeable lawyer in Scarborough. Her expertise spans real estate law, family law, adoptions and fertility law. A lawyer by profession and a humanitarian by heart, Athena Narsingh wants to help people become more familiar with the legal system and be well-informed to make important legal decisions.
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