Vancouver Spousal Support Lawyers
Spousal support balances the financial impact of a separation or divorce between spouses or common-law partners. It may recognize each spouse’s contributions to the relationship or help a non-earning spouse become financially self-sufficient.
Meridian Law Group provides comprehensive advice regarding spousal support and assertively advocates for clients’ rights and financial interests. The firm’s family and divorce lawyers are passionate about helping clients resolve the issue of spousal support as efficiently as possible so they can focus on moving forward with their lives.
Spousal Support in British Columbia
In British Columbia, both married spouses and common-law partners may be eligible to claim spousal support after separation. Spousal support for common-law partners is governed by British Columbia’s Family Law Act, which requires a claim to be brought within two years after a divorce order is granted. Married spouses may apply for spousal support under the federal Divorce Act, which does not include a deadline for a claim.
Spousal support can be ordered on an interim basis to help the recipient spouse meet their immediate needs and living expenses before their divorce is finalized. However, an interim order does not automatically entitle the recipient spouse to ongoing spousal support post-divorce.
Types of Spousal Support
There are two general types of spousal support that a spouse or common-law partner may be entitled to after a relationship’s breakdown:
- Compensatory Support, which compensates a spouse for their contribution to the relationship (which prevented them from earning income or developing a career). Most commonly, compensatory support is awarded to a spouse who stayed home to raise the couple’s children or maintain the home. The non-earning spouse may also have foregone their career to support the earning spouse as they developed their own career or business.
- Non-Compensatory Support, which is awarded to a spouse who has been disproportionately affected by the breakdown of the marriage. The recipient spouse requires spousal support to become financially independent.
Couples may also include the issue of spousal support in a domestic agreement created at the outset of their relationship. Cohabitation or marriage agreements can set out a spouse’s entitlement to spousal support if the relationship ends.
Calculating Support Payments
The federal Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are often used to calculate the amount of spousal support to be paid and the duration of the support. These guidelines provide a suggested range of spousal support based on the following factors:
- How long the couple was together;
- Whether the couple has children;
- Each spouse’s role and responsibilities in the relationship (e.g. whether they raised the couple’s children, took care of the household, or were the primary income-earner);
- The difference between the spouse’s respective incomes;
- Each spouse’s age and expected retirement age;
- The mental and physical health of each spouse;
- The recipient spouse’s level of financial self-sufficiency and what they require to become independent (e.g. additional education or training); and
- The payor spouse’s financial means.
While judges and family lawyers will refer to these guidelines in determining spousal support, these guidelines are not law. In this way, they differ from the Federal Child Support Guidelines, which are the legal basis for child support calculations. However, some case law suggests that courts may set aside a spousal support order if it was granted without considering the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines.
Financial Disclosure & Variations
Separated spouses or common-law partners have an ongoing legal duty to exchange complete, accurate, and up-to-date information about their finances. This disclosure ensures that the couple’s spousal support arrangement is fair and reflects their current financial reality.
The exchange of financial information also alerts spouses to any change that requires an amendment to the amount or duration of the spousal support. A court order or agreement governing spousal support may also identify circumstances that trigger the need for a variation.
A variation may be required where:
- One spouse remarries and therefore has additional household income available to them;
- Either spouse’s financial or employment status changes;
- There has been a change in the couple’s parenting arrangements; or
- The couple has been separated or divorced for long enough that the recipient spouse is expected to be financially independent and support themselves.
When a spouse has been paying less spousal support than they should have, the recipient spouse may bring an application for retroactive spousal support. To determine whether an order of retroactive support is justified, the court considers the following factors:
- Whether there has been any delay by the recipient spouse in seeking support, and if so, if there were reasonable excuses for the delay;
- Whether the payor spouse has engaged in “blameworthy” conduct, such as hiding assets or deliberately misreporting their income;
- The recipient spouse’s circumstances; and
- Whether a retroactive award would cause unreasonable hardship to the payor spouse.
Retroactive spousal support is paid in a lump sum using calculations provided by the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. It is important to note that retroactive spousal support orders can involve complex tax considerations. Therefore, spouses seeking retroactive support should consult with an experienced family lawyer to understand their entitlement and any applicable tax implications.
Contact Meridian Law Group in Vancouver for Seasoned Representation in Spousal Support Matters
Meridian Law Group has provided comprehensive advice and skilled representation to clients in spousal support matters for over 30 years. The firm gets to know the unique needs of each client and their family and pursues swift resolution with as little conflict as possible. The firm’s family litigators are persuasive advocates and exceed client expectations in any dispute resolution process, including family mediation, arbitration, and trial.
The lawyers of Meridian Law Group have a reputation for exceptional client-driven legal services. The firm is located in the Nelson Square Building in downtown Vancouver and proudly represents clients throughout British Columbia, including West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Penticton, Kelowna, Richmond, New Westminster, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, and White Rock. To schedule a confidential consultation in your family law matter, please reach out online or call (604) 687-2277.