Divorce or separation often comes with complex financial challenges, particularly when it comes to spousal support. In British Columbia, spousal support is a crucial aspect of family law, designed to provide post-separation financial assistance to the spouse who needs it. This blog post will delve into the intricacies of calculating spousal support in BC, which seeks to ensure financial fairness and stability during challenging times.

Understanding Spousal Support

Spousal support, previously known as alimony or maintenance, is a payment made by one spouse to another after separation or divorce. Spousal support can be awarded even in cases where there is no award for child support. There is no automatic right to spousal support. Its purpose is to balance any economic disparities that may exist between the spouses, ensuring that both parties can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living post-separation.

Who Can Claim Spousal Support?

Anyone who qualifies as a spouse can ask for spousal support after separation. Two primary pieces of legislation are in play: the federal Divorce Act and the provincial Family Law Act. 

Under the federal Divorce Act, spouses are defined as individuals who are currently or were previously married to each other. This act specifically applies to married couples. 

In British Columbia, the Family Law Act extends eligibility for spousal support to a broader scope of relationships. According to this act, spouses include:

  • Married Couples: Individuals who are legally married.
  • Common-law Partners: Those who have lived in a marriage-like relationship for a minimum of two years.
  • Couples with Children: Individuals who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for less than two years but have a child together.

While married and unmarried couples can seek spousal support under the Family Law Act, only married spouses can pursue support under the Divorce Act. 

It is important to note that the Divorce Act has no time limit for asking for spousal support. However, under the Family Law Act, married spouses have two years from the date of their divorce to start an action, while unmarried spouses must start an action within two years of the date of separation.  

Factors Influencing Spousal Support

There are two steps to deciding spousal support. The first step is determining if you are entitled to spousal support. If you are entitled to spousal support, you can calculate how much is fair and how long it should be paid. 


You are entitled to spousal support if needed based on the objectives of spousal support. The objectives of spousal support are to:

  • Recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages a spouse may face as a result of the relationship or separation;
  • Share the financial consequences arising from care of the children;
  • Reduce the financial hardship a spouse will experience as a result of the separation; and
  • Encourage each spouse to become financially self-sufficient within a reasonable period.

While each objective needs to be considered, the weight given to each will depend on the circumstances of each case. Based on these factors, it may determined that no spousal support is needed, that spousal support should be paid in lump sum, or that spousal support should be paid over a certain number of months or years. 

Through case law, Canada has developed 3 grounds/conceptual models for entitlement for support partially based on the above objectives (Moge v Moge, [1992] 3 S.C.R. 813; Bracklow v Bracklow, [1999] 1 S.C.R. 420):

  1. Compensatory: aims to compensate one spouse for specific contributions or sacrifices made during the marriage.
    1. Career sacrifices: if one spouse puts their career on hold to support the family.
    2. Educational sacrifices: if one spouse sacrificed their educational goals to support the family.
    3. Supporting the other spouse: if one spouse supported the other’s career or education during the marriage. 
  2. Non-compensatory: aims to address the economic disparity between the spouses post-divorce, ensuring both parties can maintain a comparable standard of living.
    1. Income discrepancies: to ensure the lower-earning spouse can sustain a reasonable lifestyle.
    2. Duration of marriage: long-term marriages lead to non-compensatory support, especially if one has become dependent on the other due to the length of the marriage.
    3. Custodial responsibilities: if one spouse has primary custody, they may receive support to cover the children’s expenses and maintain a stable environment. 
  3. Contractual: family law agreements between parties.

Amount and Duration

The amount and duration of spousal support is determined after considering the circumstances of each spouse, including:

  • The financial situation of each person;
  • The length of the relationship;
  • The roles and functions of each spouse during the relationship and
  • What does the person who is asking for support need in order to become self-sufficient, such as extra training or education? 

Calculating Spousal Support

After establishing a spouse’s eligibility for spousal support, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) can calculate the appropriate amount and duration. The SSAG describes several mathematical formulas that calculate the amount of spousal support payments based on each person’s income, the length of the relationship, the age of any children, and other factors. This process necessitates full financial disclosure from both spouses to help each party get a complete picture of their property, debts, income, and liabilities.

While the SSAGs are not legally binding, they are commonly utilized by lawyers and judges to determine a suitable range of support. Negotiations, mediations, or court decisions are based on these guidelines to ensure a reasonably predictable outcome for both parties.  Given their complexity, it is advisable to enlist a lawyer’s expertise to navigate and accurately calculate the amount of spousal support. 

After confirming a spouse’s eligibility for spousal support and determining the specific payment amount, the focus shifts to deciding the duration of these support payments. In lengthy relationships, spousal support could be paid indefinitely. Conversely, support might be limited to a determined timeframe in shorter relationships, especially when the recipient is employed or capable. 


A knowledgeable family law lawyer can provide invaluable guidance, ensuring that spousal support arrangements are fair, just, and reflective of the unique circumstances of each case. By understanding the legal landscape and seeking professional advice, individuals can navigate the complexities of spousal support, fostering a smoother transition into the next chapter of their lives.

The Vancouver Family Lawyers At Meridian Law Group Provide Reputable Advice on Support Payments

Through comprehensive and knowledgeable advice and legal solutions, Meridian Law Group guides clients through the complexities of support issues. We advocate for clients’ rights and the needs of their families in all legal forums, including mediation, arbitration, and the courtroom. Contact Meridian Law Group at (604) 687-2277 or visit us online for more information regarding spousal support or other family law concerns.