6.10 Spousal Support


When relationships end, spouses may face financial disadvantages as a result of the separation or relationship. Spousal support is designed to ensure that the spouses share the economic advantages and disadvantages from the relationship, that neither spouse faces economic hardship, considering their standard of living during the relationship. It can help a spouse become financially independent within a reasonable amount of time. 

Spousal support 

Law Guide:

Family Law Act : Part 7 Spousal support

Spousal Support Advisory Guideliness (SSAG)

Spousal support is the money paid by one spouse to the other when a relationship ends. Either spouse can apply for spousal support.

How does the court decide if spousal support is ordered?  

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

  • long-term relationships 
  • when there is economic disadvantages as a result of the relationship or it’s breakdown
  • great difference in income between spouses
  • there are young children

Lawyer’s Tip:

In most cases each spouse is responsible to become financial self-sufficient. So it is up to you to make reasonable efforts to support yourself. Courts are interested in having both spouses able to support themselves, and not just rely on spousal support. 

In some cases involving long marriages where one spouse has stayed home to care for children, the courts will recognize that it is not reasonable to expect a spouse to become self-sufficient.


The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) 

The SSAG are used by judges, lawyers and separating couples to calculate the range of spousal support that is usually received.  The SSAG is not mandatory, and spousal support awarded or agreed to can be below or above the amounts in the SAGG, but courts in BC will usually follow the guides when awarding spousal support. Agreements that fall far outside the SSAG ranges are likely to be overturned by a court if challenged. If the spousal payment range falls within your desired support amount, use the SSAG calculations to support your claim for spousal support. If the spousal support payment range is different than what you are asking from the court, you will need to explain why the SSAG amount is not appropriate.

To learn more about spousal support and how to calculate it, refer back to Chapter 2 Spousal Support.  In Chapter 2, you were introduced to the Spousal Support Worksheet. If you have yet to fill it in, do so now.


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.  


Which court to apply to? 

Married spouses can apply for spousal support under both the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act

  • If they choose to apply for spousal support under the Divorce Act, they must apply to the Supreme Court.  
  • If they choose to apply for support under the Family Law Act, they can apply to either the Supreme Court or the Provincial Court.  

Unmarried spouses can only apply for spousal support under the Family Law Act. They can apply for spousal support in either the Supreme Court or the Provincial Court. 


Key Legal Facts About Spousal Support

  • Both common law spouses and married spouses can claim spousal support.
  • The spouse who is in a financially worse off position because of the relationship or its breakdown can claim spousal support.
  • It is not mandatory to follow the SAGG, but it gives you a good idea of how the courts would award support. You should still follow them unless you have a good reason not to.
  • If you are applying for support under the Family Law Act, you must do so with 2 years of your divorce or separation.  
  • Spousal support, when paid periodically, is taxable income for the receiver and tax deductible for the payer. This does not apply if the support is paid out in one lump sum.


You may ask the court for temporary spousal support with an Interim Order. Financial support may be necessary for the time before you get to court if you are facing a long wait before your trial date. To learn more about how to do this, click here. (Chapter 8.3)