Ottawa West Family Law
Calculating Spousal Support Costs

Spousal Support

Spousal support (somtimes referred to as alimony) is usually a monthly amount from the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning spouse that is tax-deductible to the payor of spousal support and taxable to the recipient of spousal support. It is also sometimes paid in a lump sum amount that is not tax-deductible/taxable.

Spousal support is a complex issue depending first upon whether there is any basis to receive spousal support (entitlement). There are three main entitlement categories:

  1. Compensatory – to compensate a spouse for sacrifices for the family;
  2. Financial need – to help with financial need due to the relationship breakdown; and
  3. Contract – there is an agreement/order that sets out spousal support obligations.

If there is entitlement, then the next question is for how long (duration) and how much (quantum) using the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines [1] as a guide.

Duration of spousal support is usually calculated based on how long the spouses lived together (cohabitation period). In general, the duration ranges from one-half of the cohabitation period to the entire cohabitation period. There are several issues that impact duration such as disability, the parties’ ages and whether there is child support.

Quantum depends on the parties’ respective incomes. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines provides a range of spousal support and the circumstances determine whether spousal support should be at the low, mid or high-range. The issue is complex as many factors impact spousal support such as child support, whether there are special or extraordinary expenses, post-separation income increases/decreases, imputation of income, etc.

Parties can obtain an idea of the spousal support range using an online tool called My Support Calculator [1].

[1] The Government of Canada and My Support Calculator do not endorse and are not affiliated with OWFL.