Separating from partner? Big dollars!

Separating from your partner can be painful.

Maybe you still love your former partner and you wish you were still together.

Or, MAYBE you’re really happy that you no longer have to wake up with that person; but, you’re miserable because you have to deal with the money issues of the separation...

One of the big financial issues of a separation is dealing with spousal support: either paying it or receiving it.

For your sake, I hope that you never have to learn about spousal support first-hand. But, if you do or if you know someone who is going through a separation, here’s some information…


So, what is spousal support?

Put simply, spousal support is a payment from one spouse to another. It is primarily designed to:

  1. Make sure that neither partner will face financial hardship as a result of the separation; and
  2. Ensure that each partner becomes financially independent after the separation.

You should know, too, that after your relationship is over, you don’t automatically pay or receive spousal support. It is nowhere near that easy.

The first hurdle to getting spousal support is that you must have been married or, if not officially married, been living in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years.

If you’ve cleared this first hurdle, then you must consider whether or not you’re even entitled to spousal support. I’ll explain….

There are three ways in which a partner can be entitled to spousal support:

  1. Contractual Support;
  2. Compensatory Grounds; and
  3. Non-Compensatory Grounds.

The above-noted terms have legal definitions. So, I’ll explain each one below.

Under the “contractual grounds”, a support payment (to pay or receive) is created out an agreement that you may have made with your partner. If you haven’t agreed to anything, then consider the next basis for entitlement.

Under the “compensatory grounds”, a spouse is entitled to spousal support if they agreed (even implicitly) to not maximize their earning potential and instead, for instance, raise children and/or accept a lower paying job. At the same time, then, the other spouse is able to leave the home and pursue their employment potential.

Under the “non-compensatory grounds”, a spouse is entitled to spousal support if one spouse (truly) needs the money and there is a big difference between the incomes of the two spouses. In this case, the court will say, “There is a social obligation that the disadvantaged spouse be supported by the other spouse who is earning more money.”

If there is entitlement (under any of these above-noted grounds), then the court may require one spouse to pay spousal support to the other.

The amount of money payable in support will typically be dependent on the incomes of both spouses and the length of the marriage. And, for your information, the longer the marriage and the larger the difference in incomes between the parties, the more money one spouse will need to pay to the spouse.

And, please also remember that spousal support can be payable by either the husband or the wife: it does not discriminate based on sex.

And, sadly, as with most columns, I can only give you the tip of the iceberg.


If you have any questions, I recommend either contacting a lawyer or reviewing the case law on the following website, providing free access to court decisions: CanLii.


And now you know.


**The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.

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About the Author

Jeff Zilkowsky is a lawyer practicing at MacLean Law in the Lower Mainland and in Kelowna, and focuses his practice on family law and litigation.  

In his column, Jeff provides information about current legal events or points of interest or concern relating to the law. 

The information contained in Jeff’s column should not be used or relied upon as legal advice.

Comments are always appreciated and encouraged, so don’t hesitate to email Jeff at [email protected]

Visit Jeff’s website at www.jeffzilkowsky.com or visit the website of MacLean Law.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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