How Long Will You Have to Support an Ex-spouse?

For better or worse. Spousal support is like that. When a marriage doesn’t work out, you or your ex-spouse or partner can expect to make ongoing support payments. Sometimes for life.

Why Spousal Support May be Granted

When it comes to assets or income, not all marital relationships are equal. Some spouses bring more financially to a marriage. Regardless of gender, if it breaks down, the spouse or common law partner with the higher income may be tapped for support. 

Do You Have to be Divorced?

Spousal support can start during separation and continue after divorce. While courts expect spouses to support themselves, the Ontario Family Law Act recognizes that may take time. You can apply as long as you and your spouse or partner:

  • are legally married and are separating,
  • lived common law continuously for three or more years, or
  • are in a somewhat permanent relationship and have biological or adopted children.

What If You Have Separate Homes?

It’s not necessary to live together to qualify for spousal support, as long as your relationship is long-term and committed. You may also qualify if you held yourselves out as “spouses” and others accepted you as partners.

Calculating Support – What Counts

Courts consider how much each spouse makes and can afford to pay or needs. Support can be requested to help you become financially self-sufficient or if you have serious financial issues. Ontario’s spousal support advisory guidelines are used to help parties review their needs. The guidelines are useful, but not binding. Family court judges may adjust the amount at their discretion.

Can You Change Support Payments?

Depending on your income or circumstances, you can ask for support payments to be changed. Couples can voluntarily agree to reduce or increase support or go to family court. A court ordered or voluntary review allows the court to monitor whether support is still needed. Reviews can occur at regular intervals, such as after retraining is completed. Axess Law’s family lawyers can advise you on requesting changes and review orders.

Is Spousal Support Forever?

Your support may have an end date. But if not, it will continue until your voluntary agreement or spousal support order are changed. For marriages under 20 years, support lasts as long as it takes to become self-sufficient. A 10-year marriage with no children, for example, might result in support of five to 10 years. For lengthy marriages, it could be longer.

What If You Are Older?

If your age and years of marriage equal or exceed 65 (called the rule of 65), indefinite support may be granted. That doesn’t mean for life, just that the term is indefinite. For example, it might be terminated if you move in with a new partner. Your spouse could retire and have less income. In that case, the court might reduce your support.

Does Support Stop When You Remarry?

Remarrying or living with someone else does not affect your support obligations.

Ask Axess Law About Spousal Support

Consult with an Axess Law family lawyer in Toronto about your spousal support obligations or entitlements. Book an appointment by calling Axess Law at 1-647-479-0118 or use our online booking form. Lawyers are available 7 days a week, including remotely by phone, email or video call.

Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s family law services.