2.11 Spousal Support

Spousal support is the money paid by one spouse to the other when a relationship ends. Either spouse may be eligible to receive spousal support. But spouses are not automatically legally entitled to spousal support.


When a relationship ends, one spouse may face financial disadvantages as a result of the separation. Spousal support is designed to ensure that neither spouse faces economic hardship.

Spousal support helps each spouse become financially independent within a reasonable amount of time. 


When is Spousal Support is Required?  

Key Principle:

Spousal support is owed to the spouse that is financially disadvantaged by the relationship or by the end of the relationship by the other spouse.

When the following factors are present, judges are more likely to order for spousal support:  

  • long duration of relationships
  • economic disadvantages as a result of the relationship
  • great difference in income between the applicant and his/her former spouse
  • reduced ability of the applicant to financially support himself or herself due to the relationship. 


The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) 

The SSAG provides informal guidelines that can help applicants calculate the range of spousal support that they might be able to receive.  The SSAG is not mandatory. Spousal support awarded, or agreed to, can be below or above the amounts in the SAGG, but courts will generally follow the guidelines when awarding spousal support.


Tax Ramifications

Generally, periodic spousal support payments are tax deductible for the payor and taxable income for the recipient. To claim spousal support payments as a tax deduction, the order or agreement must clearly state that the payments are for spousal support and the payments must be periodic in nature. Lump sum payments are neither tax deductible nor taxable income.


If you have a pre-marital, marriage or cohabitation agreement be sure to know what it says about spousal support. These agreements can limit your entitlement to spousal support. If you signed an agreement that waives your right to spousal support you won’t be able to claim it without showing the agreement is invalid. Consult a lawyer if you have concerns about these agreements.  

To determine spousal support you will need to share detailed documents showing your income, assets, and debt.

A good place to start in determining spousal support is seeing how much would be owed under SAGG.

Use ‘My Support Calculator’ to help determine your spousal support calculations.


Go to the My Support Calculator website.

  • Click on Calculate Support
  • Since you want to find out spousal support scroll down to select Spousal Support Only.
  • Type in your name where it says self and your spouse’s where it says Spouse. We’ll use our case study pair Marg and Jon and fill this in as if we are Marg.
  • Select what province you both live in and fill in your birth dates.
  • Now type in both your annual incomes.
  • And then select your date of marriage or when you started to live together whichever is earlier. 
  • Select your date of Separation (when you began living separate and apart)
  • Once you’ve done this you can click Calculate

Although the figure given for spousal support is a suggestion, it is likely close to what a court may order if there are no other circumstances that would alter a judge’s mind.

Remember there is no specific amount that is legally required, so you are able to come to an agreement on your own that may differ from the calculated amount. But of course, you both have to be willing to enter into such an agreement. The amount provided by the calculator is a good starting point for what amount is generally awarded.

Lawyer’s Tip:

Exchange the last 3 years of income with your former spouse. If you are making a court application for spousal support, financial disclosure would be mandatory.

Once you have agreed to an amount of spousal support, you must also decide how the support will be paid. For instance, one couple may agree to pay spousal support all at once, while another might agree to pay in monthly installments for a set period of time.

Types of Spousal payments:

  • Periodic payments- It is common to have support paid on a periodic, (usually monthly), bases, such as on the first of every month. You will need to agree to what this will look like, how much each payment will be and for how long it will be paid. 
  • Lump-sum payments: It can sometimes be easier to pay a single lump sum for all of the support payments. Of course, the payor has to be able to pay a lump sum like that, and not everyone can.
  • Division of property: It is possible that the way the family property and family debt is divided could satisfy the goal of a spousal support order. It's also possible that a payor could agree to give the recipient more of the family property in order to avoid a spousal support obligation.


Details to workout

Self-Rep's Tip:

Speak to a financial advisor or an accountant to discuss how spousal support affects your tax obligations.

Regardless of the type of payments that are to be made, there are some details that should be worked out when you make an agreement.

  • Date payments are to be made –If they are made periodically (such as monthly or bimonthly) then specify which date every period they are payable and what date the payments are to start. 
  • Date payments are to end – If there is an end date make sure to specify it.
  • Any circumstances that end support – Parties can agree that when an event occurs such as one party starts receiving pension or remarries, spousal support payments end.
  • How payments are to be made – This could be anything you agree to together such as post-dated cheques, cash, or e-transfers.  
  • Annual exchange of financial information- You can agree to share copies of your income tax returns for the previous year by a specific date each year.
  • Reviewable – If you want to review the terms you should set out when those reviews are to occur.  E.g. review to be done every June 1st.
  • Dispute resolution- Discuss how you want to resolve any disagreements about support should they arise in the future. You can agree to mediate first before going to court.

Take a moment to fill in the Spousal Support Worksheet before you move on to the next section.