Spousal support is one of the most challenging areas in Family Law today. When spouses separate, one of the spouses may be entitled to receive a payment from the other spouse to supplement his or her income. This is called spousal support.
First, whether or not a spouse is entitled to spousal support must be determined. A spouse may be entitled to support if he or she has a lower income than the other spouse, is not able to be self-sufficient, or has made financial or career compromises for the benefit of the family during the relationship. There could also be other factors that may affect whether a spouse is entitled to support.
Once an entitlement has been established, determining how much support should be paid and how long it should be paid for requires many factors to be considered. Lawyers and Courts often use a tool called the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines to help weigh these factors and to figure this out. While these Guidelines are not the law, they are very helpful.
Generally, there are two types of spousal support – compensatory and non-compensatory:
Compensatory support is paid by one spouse to the other to compensate the lower income earning spouse for the sacrifices that he or she has made during the relationship that have resulted in lower income. Examples of such sacrifices would include taking time away from the workforce to have and care for children or relocations (such as in the military) to further the career of the higher income earning spouse. A lawyer will need to know details about the circumstances of each spouse’s education, training and career to determine whether there is a reasonable claim for compensatory support.
Non-compensatory support is based upon the lower income earning spouse’s need and the higher income earning spouse’s ability to pay. Here, consideration is given to the standard of living the spouses enjoyed during their relationship, as well as the budgets of each spouse post-separation.
The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, when the proper information is input to the software, provides a range (low/mid/high) of the amount of support that may be appropriate and a recommendation on how long support should paid (again, this is a range).
If you think you may have an entitlement to spousal support or an obligation to pay it, this is an area where it may be critical to obtain legal advice from a lawyer specializing in Family Law to ensure that the amount paid is fair and reasonable at law.