Paine Edmonds LLP - Blog
Common Misconceptions About Spousal Support in Vancouver
Over 160,000 couples lived in common law relationships in British Columbia in 2011. According to Statistics Canada, the rate of common law couples in British Columbia is growing at a rate three times faster
than the rate of married couples.
To keep up with this increasingly important social trend, the BC government updated the laws regulating family relations in the province and enacted the
new Family Law Act in 2013. Despite these changes, there remains
a wide range of misconceptions about family law in general and in particular, how spousal support works.
What Is Spousal Support?
Spousal support is money paid by one spouse to the other spouse after there has been a family breakdown in the form of a separation or divorce.
Spousal support is commonly paid as compensation for sacrifices made during the course of the relationship that affected earning power, such the joint
decision to have a stoppage in one’s career to care for the family. Or, spousal support could be warranted for helping the spouse who has higher pay
to achieve those ends, such as supporting the partner earlier in the relationship through school, internships, training, etc. Spousal support is generally
compensatory in nature and sometimes it is needs based (e.g., if a spouse is now unable to work due to poor health).
Misconceptions About Spousal Support
Below are some key misconceptions about how spousal support works. Please note that this information contained here is general legal information and not
specific advice to your case. If you are in the process of separating from a spouse, you should contact a family lawyer in Vancouver, BC.
1. Only Married Spouses Receive Spousal Support
Under the B.C.’s Family Law Act (the “Act”), spousal support is available to common law and married couples, where the eligibility requirements
are met for spousal support (see misconception #2).
To be clear, to be a spouse for the purpose of spousal support you must be in one of the three possible situation: you must be married, you have lived
together for two continuous years, or you have a child with the other person.
2. Is Spousal Support Granted In All Divorces or Separations?
No, spousal support is not appropriate in every separation/divorce. Under the Act, when considering the amount and duration of spousal support, the court
must consider the length of time the spouses lived together, the functions performed by each spouse during the period they lived together, and any
agreement between the spouses (e.g., a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement), or an order, relating to the support of either spouse. The court will
also consider if a spouse had a lot of assets or if the difference in income cannot be traced to anything that occurred during the relationship.
3. Spousal Support Is Permanent
Not likely. In fact indefinite support is quite rare as everyone has a duty to work towards being self-sufficient within a reasonable period of time. As
seen in response to misconception #2, the Act requires a judge to consider the duration of time the spouses lived together, the functions each spouse
had while they lived together and any agreement between the spouses or previous order from the court. If a couple has been living together for 20 years
or more and a partner gave up his or her career along the way in order to care for the children and has not worked since, then there could be grounds
for indefinite spousal support. The spousal support guidelines (with and without child support formula) are helpful in arriving at a reasonable starting point to negotiate the amount and duration of spousal support.
If there are any pre-nuptial agreements for the purpose of determining the duration of spousal support, they often have provisions that spousal support
is terminated when the recipient spouse remarries.
4. Support Will Keep Me In The Standard of Living Had In The Relationship
The goal of spousal support is not to keep you in the exact same standard of living as occurred in the relationship. As the parties have the same resources,
but now have two households to support, maintaining either spouse in the standard of living that they had in the relationship would be impossible.
Instead, the goals are much more modest, which are to compensate the spouse with the lower income for sacrificing some earning power income during the
marriage, to compensate the spouse with the lower income for ongoing care of children, or to help a spouse who is in financial need if the other spouse
has the ability to pay.
5. Spousal Support is Higher where there was Infidelity or Abuse
No, spousal support is compensatory not punitive in nature. Spousal support is designed compensate the recipient spouse, not to punish the paying spouse.
This is partially because Canada has no-fault divorce law. This means the reasons the marriage ended do not affect a spouse’s legal obligation to support
the other spouse following a divorce.
Contact Paine Edmonds LLP for Family Law Services in Vancouver
If you are in the process of separating from your spouse or common law partner, contact our Vancouver law firm for family law services.
At Paine Edmonds LLP, we have tremendous experience helping British Columbians through separation and divorce. We offer family law legal representation
and can help you through negotiation or alternative dispute resolution as first steps, including mediation in Vancouver. If a reasonable settlement
can be achieved, then we will not recommend a court application. Contact us at 1-800-669-8599 today to set up a consultation regarding your legal options.