Separation and divorce
Spousal support: Financial assistance after a divorce
Married couples benefit from certain financial protections in the event of divorce, such as spousal support. What is spousal support? Who can ask for it? What are the steps to obtain it? Here’s what you need to know about spousal support.
What’s the purpose of spousal support?
Spousal support is a sum of money a spouse receives from an ex to provide for his or her needs if they get divorced.
This money helps the spouse regain financial independence or compensates for any economic imbalances created by the marriage or its breakdown.
It’s usually paid periodically (e.g., $1,000 per month), but it can also be paid as a lump sum (e.g., a single payment of $20,000) or a combination of the two (e.g., a payment of $10,000 plus a periodic payment of $500 per month).
Who is entitled to spousal support?
Unless you reach an agreement with your ex, you will have to prove to the judge that you’re entitled to spousal support because the separation has caused you financial hardship or you had to make sacrifices during the marriage or after the breakup that deserve compensation.
To determine whether this is the case, the judge will look at several elements, including:
- The length of time you and your spouse cohabited
- The functions you each performed while you cohabited and how those functions have affected both of your current financial situations
- The roles played by each of you in caring for your children during the marriage and after the breakup
- The impact of the breakup on both of your financial situations
- Your respective needs and means
- The possibility of you regaining economic independence within a reasonable period of time
- Whether or not another form of spousal support is being paid
How do you obtain spousal support?
You can start by trying to reach an agreement with your ex to pay you spousal support. A mediator can also help find a solution that works for you both.
If you and your ex can’t agree, you can ask a judge to decide. To do so, you have to make the request in your “Divorce Application.”
If your case is urgent, you can also file an “Application for a safeguard order” so that the judge can render a decision on support quickly, without waiting for the divorce judgment.
Both applications have to be filed with a document called “Form III - Statement of Income and Expenditures and Balance Sheet,” where you set out your budget and list your assets (i.e., your money and property) and debts.
If the judge decides to award support, this form will help determine the amount.
How is spousal support calculated?
The support amount depends on several criteria, including:
- the financial capacity of the spouse paying support
- the needs of the spouse receiving support
- the duration of the marriage
- the role each spouse played during the marriage
Unlike child support, there is no precise mathematical formula to determine the amount of spousal support.
Judges can draw inspiration, however, from the “Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines.”
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The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.
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