Spousal support is a tricky issue in family law. Far too often, the lower income earning party is under the misapprehension that he or she is automatically entitled to receive spousal support after a spousal relationship ends. However, that is not necessarily the case: the law is very clear that a party must first establish one of three grounds for entitlement if they are to be successful in a spousal support claim. An experienced family lawyer can help in this endeavor.

The first ground for entitlement is compensatory. Compensatory claims for spousal support are based on one party’s economic loss or disadvantage resulting from their role taken during the relationship. Some of the common situations giving rise to a compensatory claim include: leaving a promising career to become a stay-at-home parent; dropping out of school to raise children; and otherwise giving up one’s career or earning potential to support the other party’s career or education. The longer the marriage and the more severe the sacrifice, the greater the compensatory claim.

The second ground is needs-based. Needs-based claims generally focus on one party’s inability to meet their needs financially. Needs-based claims also focus on one party’s inability to meet the ordinary standard of living during the relationship. For example, a party unable to pay for basic rent or food would have a need for spousal support. Alternatively, a party who lived in luxury for years but is suddenly cut off may have a needs-based claim. Another common factor includes an illness preventing one party from becoming self-sufficient. For clarity in this matter, consult with a family lawyer.

The third ground is contractual. If the parties have executed any agreement specifying terms for spousal support to be paid, entitlement will be established.

Generally speaking, a compensatory claim results in a higher award in terms of the length of time spousal support must be paid and the amount of spousal support. However, it is crucial to remember that a mere disparity of incomes coupled with the breakdown of a spousal relationship does not automatically entitle a party to spousal support. Entitlement on one of these grounds must first be established.

If you have questions about this or any other family law matter, feel free to contact a family lawyer at Radley Family Law for more information. Our team has years of experience helping Ontario families in a wide variety of family disputes and legal issues.