Difference between revisions of "Introduction to Spousal Support"

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{{Dial-A-Law TOC|expanded = family}}
 
{{Dial-A-Law TOC|expanded = family}}
This script discusses spousal support, sometimes called “maintenance” or “alimony”. This discussion applies equally to married spouses and unmarried spouses.
+
When a relationship ends, one spouse may seek help from the other with living expenses or to compensate for choices the spouses made during the relationship. Learn about spousal support.
 +
 +
==Understand your legal rights==
  
==What is spousal support?==
+
===Spousal support helps a former spouse with living expenses===
Spousal support is money paid by one spouse to the other when a relationship breaks down and the couple has separated. Spousal support is not paid just because a couple was married or was in a marriage-like relationship; the spouse seeking spousal support must prove that he or she is entitled to receive it. The reasons why a spouse might be entitled to receive spousal support are discussed in more detail below.
+
'''Spousal support''' is money paid to a former spouse to help with living expenses. The money is paid under an agreement or court order after a relationship ends.
  
==Who can claim spousal support?==
+
Although anyone who was in a married or unmarried spousal relationship can '''apply''' for spousal support, there is no automatic right to receive support just because of the relationship. Whether spousal support will be paid, and, if so, how much, depends on the particular circumstances of each couple.
Everyone who qualifies as a “spouse” can claim spousal support after separation. Spouses are people who:
 
  
*are married;
+
===Who can claim spousal support===
*have lived together in a “marriage-like relationship” for at least two years; and
+
Everyone who qualifies as a “'''spouse'''” can claim spousal support after separation.
 +
 
 +
Under the federal ''[http://canlii.ca/t/7vbw Divorce Act]'', spouses are people who are married to each other.
 +
 
 +
Under BC’s ''[https://www.canlii.org/en/bc/laws/stat/sbc-2011-c-25/latest/sbc-2011-c-25.html#sec3_smooth Family Law Act]'', spouses are people who:
 +
*are married,
 +
*have lived together in a “marriage-like relationship” for at least two years, or
 
*have lived together in a “marriage-like relationship” for less than two years and have a child together.
 
*have lived together in a “marriage-like relationship” for less than two years and have a child together.
  
Whether a spouse is entitled to spousal support, and if so in what amount, depends on the specific circumstances of each couple.
+
===When a spouse is entitled to spousal support=== 
 +
Spousal support is intended to do four things:
 +
*recognize any financial advantages or disadvantages a spouse may face because of the relationship or the breakup
 +
*make both spouses share any financial consequences arising from the care of their children during the relationship
 +
*make sure neither spouse faces economic hardship as a result of the breakup
 +
*if possible, help each spouse become financially independent within a reasonable amount of time
  
==How to get spousal support?==
+
A spouse’s entitlement to spousal support depends on several factors, including:
Arrangements for the payment of spousal support can be made in a separation agreement. If spouses cannot agree on the payment of spousal support, the court can make an order requiring the payment of spousal support if entitlement is proven.  
+
*'''The length of the relationship''': The longer the relationship, the more likely spousal support will be awarded.
 +
*'''Difference in incomes''': The greater the difference in income between the spouses at the end of a relationship, the more likely spousal support will be awarded.
 +
*'''Economic disadvantage''': The more economically disadvantaged a spouse is as a result of the relationship (due, for example, to leaving the workforce to raise a child, and therefore missing out on developing job skills and on getting raises), the more likely spousal support will be awarded.
 +
*'''Earning capacity''': The more one spouse’s earning capacity is reduced because of family obligations like child care or a serious illness the more likely spousal support will be awarded.
  
Married spouses can ask for an order for spousal support under both the federal ''Divorce Act'' and the provincial ''Family Law Act''. Unmarried spouses can only ask for spousal support under the ''Family Law Act''. Claims for spousal support under the ''Family Law Act'' must be made within two years of an order for divorce or nullity of a marriage for married spouses, or within two years of the date of separation for unmarried spouses.
+
Generally, if one spouse supported the other during their relationship, that spouse will be expected to continue to contribute to the support of the other spouse after the relationship breaks down. On the other hand, if both spouses were financially independent during the relationship, then in general, neither will be entitled to receive financial support after separation.
  
==Which court to go to?==
+
===The effect of a spouse’s behaviour on support===  
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'', or under both laws, they must make a claim in the Supreme Court. If they apply for support under the ''Family Law Act'', they can make a claim in either the Supreme Court or the Provincial Court. Each court has its own forms, rules and procedures.
+
The conduct of the spouses is usually irrelevant when deciding spousal support. For example, a spouse will not be denied support because they had an affair or because they were violent or suffered violence.  
  
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.
+
Under the ''Family Law Act'', however, a court can consider conduct that:
 +
*unreasonably causes or prolongs a need for spousal support, or
 +
*unreasonably affects a spouse’s ability to pay spousal support.
  
==What are “interim” support orders and “final” support orders?==  
+
===The amount of spousal support===  
After a couple separates, either spouse may begin a court case asking for an order for spousal support, and for other orders such as for divorce, if they are married, or about the parenting arrangements for a  child. In between the beginning of the court case and its end, spouses may need to ask the court for “interim” orders for spousal support. It can often take a year or more to bring a court case to a trial or a settlement. Interim orders for spousal support are meant to be temporary and only last until another interim order is made or until the court case ends.  
+
Where a spouse is entitled to receive spousal support, the amount of spousal support is usually determined using the [https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/fl-df/spousal-epoux/ssag-ldfpae.html Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines]. These Guidelines are used whether the amount is being determined by a court or negotiated by the parties.  
  
Final orders are made by a judge following trial, or with the agreement of the parties following settlement. Final orders are meant to be permanent.
+
The Guidelines use a number of mathematical formulas to calculate spousal support ranges and the length of time for which support should be paid.  
  
==How does the court decide if spousal support should be ordered?==
+
The formulas used to determine these ranges can be complicated, especially if a child is involved. Software programs make some of the more difficult calculations easier. Some companies in the private sector sell software for this purpose — for example, DivorceMate. There are also free online calculators such as [http://www.mysupportcalculator.ca/ mysupportcalculator.ca] that can do simple calculations.
The court considers several factors, including:
 
  
*the length of the relationship
+
===How long spousal support is paid for===
*any advantages or disadvantages to the spouses as a result of their relationship or its breakdown
+
Once a spouse's entitlement to spousal support is established and the amount of support payments fixed, the next step is to look at how long the support payments will be paid for.
*the functions performed by each spouse during their relationship
 
*any financial consequences arising from the care of the child
 
*the financial circumstances of each spouse, both during the relationship and after separation
 
*the ability of each spouse to support him or herself
 
  
Generally, if one spouse supported the other during their relationship, that spouse will be expected to continue to contribute to the support of the other spouse after the relationship breaks down. On the other hand, if both spouses were financially independent when together or are capable of being financially independent after separation, then in general, neither will be entitled to receive financial support after separation.
+
The law expects each spouse to make reasonable efforts to become self-supporting if at all possible. To encourage this, support payments may be limited to a certain length of time. For example, if a spouse needs to get job training before returning to work, payments may be limited to the period of time needed to complete that training.  
  
In some cases, though, a spouse may be entitled to support even if they were not financially dependent on the other spouse. This kind of support is called “compensatory spousal support” and is sometimes ordered where a spouse has suffered a financial loss as a result of decisions made during the relationship, such as a decision to leave the workforce to raise a child, or to leave a job in order to move with the family to a new town.
+
The length of the spouses’ relationship is often a significant factor in determining how long spousal support will be paid. For people leaving long relationships, spousal support might be paid permanently or until retirement. The courts recognize that the older a person is, the harder it generally is to return to the workforce or retrain.  
  
==Does a spouse’s behaviour affect whether support is paid?==
+
For people in shorter relationships, particularly where the person receiving support payments is either working outside the home or capable of working outside the home, support might only be payable for a fixed length of time.
The conduct of the spouses is usually irrelevant when deciding support. For example, a spouse will not be denied support because he or she had an affair or because he or she was violent or suffered violence.  
 
  
Under the ''Family Law Act'', however, the court can consider conduct that:
+
===How to get spousal support===
 +
Arrangements for spousal support can be made in a '''separation agreement'''. If spouses cannot agree on the payment of spousal support, one of them can apply to court for an order that spousal support be paid.
 +
Married spouses can seek spousal support under either the federal ''Divorce Act'' or the provincial ''Family Law Act''. Unmarried spouses can only ask for spousal support under the ''Family Law Act''. 
  
*unreasonably causes or prolongs a need for spousal support; or
+
====Which court to go to====
*unreasonably affects a spouse’s ability to pay spousal support
+
To apply for spousal support under the ''Divorce Act'', or under both laws, the claim must be made in BC Supreme Court. To apply for support under the ''Family Law Act'', the claim can be made in either the Supreme Court or the Provincial Court. Each court has its own forms and rules. For Provincial Court, see our information on [[Family Court (Script 110)|Family Court (no. 110)]].
  
==How is the amount of spousal support determined?==
+
====Getting “interim” support====
Once it has been decided that a spouse should receive spousal support, the amount of spousal support is usually determined using the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, whether the amount is being determined by the court or negotiated by the parties. The Guidelines use a number of mathematical formulas to calculate ranges spousal support amounts and the length of time for which it should be paid.  
+
While the court case is in progress, either spouse may ask the court for an “'''interim order'''” for spousal support. This is a temporary order meant to last until the case is settled or goes to trial. For more on interim orders, see our information on [[Applying for an Interim Order in a Family Law Case in the Supreme Court (Script 112)|applying for an interim order in a family law case in Supreme Court (no. 112)]].
  
The formulas used to determine these ranges can be very complicated, especially if a child is involved, and it’s usually necessary to use a computer program. Lawyers have access to sophisticated software called DivorceMate to determine the ranges of duration of spousal support. Alternatively, the simplified calculator is available for free at [http://www.mysupportcalculator.ca www.mysupportcalculator.ca].
+
===Both spouses must provide full financial disclosure===
 +
Full financial disclosure is required of both spouses when making decisions about spousal support, whether the spouses are in court or are trying to negotiate a resolution outside of court. Spouses often complete and exchange financial statements using the forms required by the courts, even when they’re not in a court proceeding.
  
==Do spouses have to disclose all their finances when someone is asking for spousal support?==
+
Financial statements help to give the spouses a complete picture of their property and debts, income and liabilities, and are usually provided along with important documents like income tax returns and tax assessments.    
Full financial disclosure is required of both spouses when making decisions about spousal support, whether the spouses are in court or are trying to negotiate a resolution outside of court. Spouses often complete and exchange financial statements (Form F8 in the Supreme Court and Form 4 in the Provincial Court), even when they’re not in court.
 
  
Financial statements help to give the spouses a complete picture of their property and debts, income and liabilities, and are usually provided along with important documents like income tax returns and tax assessments. However, these forms can be complicated; thus, the help of a lawyer may be needed. 
+
==Common questions==
  
==What are the tax consequences of spousal support?==
+
===What are the tax consequences of spousal support?===
Spousal support is taxable income in the hands of the spouse who receives it and deductible from the taxable income of the spouse who pays it. The person receiving support payments must report the income to Canada Revenue Agency and pay tax on it, just like employment income. The person paying support is allowed to claim the payments as a tax deduction, just like RRSP contributions.
+
Spousal support is '''taxable income''' in the hands of the spouse who receives it, and '''deductible''' from the taxable income of the spouse who pays it. The person receiving support payments must report the income to Canada Revenue Agency and pay tax on it, just like employment income. The person paying support is allowed to claim the payments as a tax deduction, just like RRSP contributions.
  
Only spousal support payments that are paid on a periodic basis; for example once a month or once every two weeks, are actually paid, and, are paid because of a written agreement or a court order are taxable and deductible. Other kinds of support payments, such as payments made in one or more lump sums, payments to third parties (like a landlord) or payments in services, may not be taxable or deductible. It may be necessary to speak to a lawyer to confirm the tax status of spousal support payments.
+
For spousal support payments to be taxable and deductible, the payments must be:
 +
*paid because of a written agreement or a court order,
 +
*paid on a periodic basis, such as once a month or once every two weeks, and
 +
*actually paid.
  
The tax consequences of support payments should be taken into account when determining the amount of support that should be paid. For more information on this, see script [[Income Tax Implications of Support Payments (Script 133)|133]] on the “Income Tax Implications of Support Payments”.
+
Other kinds of support payments — such as payments made in a lump sum or payments made by providing services — are not taxable or deductible. It may be necessary to speak to a lawyer to confirm the tax status of spousal support payments.
  
==How long is spousal support paid for?==
+
The tax consequences of support payments should be taken into account when determining the amount of support that should be paid. For more on this, see our information on [[Income Tax Implications of Support Payments (Script 133)|the tax implications of support payments (no. 133)]].
The law expects each spouse to make reasonable efforts to become self-supporting if at all possible. To encourage this, the court may limit the support payments to a certain length of time. For example, if a spouse needs to get job training before returning to work, the court may limit payments to the period of time needed to complete that training. On the other hand, the court may order that payments go on indefinitely, or until the paying spouse retires. In cases where it’s uncertain how much time a partner will need to become self-supporting, the court can make a support order that is reviewable after a certain length of time or upon a certain event, like a spouse’s retirement.
 
  
The length of the spouses’ relationship is often a significant factor in determining how long spousal support should be paid. The courts recognize that the older the person is, the harder it generally is to return to the work-force or retrain. As a result, the longer the relationship is, the less likely it is that a stay-at-home spouse will have to look for work and the more likely it is that spousal support will have to be paid indefinitely.
+
===What if I’m on income assistance?===
 +
After a couple separates, if one spouse applies for or is receiving income assistance, the BC government may ask them to [https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/policies-for-government/bcea-policy-and-procedure-manual/general-supplements-and-programs/family-maintenance-services assign their rights to spousal support] to the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. This allows the Ministry to take steps to collect spousal support on their behalf, and to keep some or all of the support it collects.
  
==What happens if circumstances change?==
+
===What happens if circumstances change?===
Financial disclosure may have to be made again if there’s a significant change in the financial circumstances of either spouse after spousal support has been ordered or agreed to. Even after a final support order has been made, the amount of support can be changed if either spouse’s income or other financial circumstances change. Generally, the change must be significant and must not have been foreseeable when the support order or agreement was made.
+
If there’s a significant change in the financial circumstances of either spouse after spousal support has been ordered or agreed to, it is almost always possible to apply to change the support order or to renegotiate a separation agreement. Examples include if either spouse’s financial situation unexpectedly worsens, or the paying spouse gets better paying work. Generally, the change must be significant and must not have been foreseeable when the support order or agreement was made.
  
==What to do if the spouse won’t pay the support?==  
+
===What can I do if my spouse won’t pay the support?===  
If the spouse does not pay spousal support as ordered or agreed, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) can help free of charge. FMEP will help collect support payments that are owed and monitor a support order to make sure payments continue to be made. For more information, refer to script [[Enforcing Orders and Agreements for Support (Script 132)|132]] on “Enforcing Orders and Agreements for Support”.
+
If your spouse does not pay spousal support as ordered or agreed, the '''Family Maintenance Enforcement Program''' can help free of charge. This BC government program can help you collect support payments that are owed and monitor a support order to make sure payments continue to be made. For more details, see our information on [[Enforcing Orders and Agreements for Support (Script 132)|enforcing support orders and agreements (no. 132)]].  
  
==What happens if the recipient is on social assistance?==
+
==Get help==
If the recipient of spousal support is applying for or receiving social assistance, she or he will be required to sign a form that assigns any rights she or he may have to apply for or receive spousal support to the Ministry. This allows the Ministry to take whatever steps it considers necessary to collect spousal support on the recipient’s behalf, and to keep some or all of the support it collects. The Family Maintenance Program (which is different from the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program) is the program that collects spousal support on behalf of people receiving social assistance and may apply for an order for spousal support on its own initiative.
 
  
==More information==
+
===With spousal support===
*Family Justice Counsellors in Family Justice Centres throughout BC can help couples with understanding spousal support, preparing a separation agreement, and obtaining a support order in Provincial Court (but not Supreme Court). Their services are free. Call 604.660.2421 in the lower mainland, 250.387.6121 in Greater Victoria or toll-free 1.800.663.7867 elsewhere in BC, and ask to speak with a Family Justice Counsellor in the nearest Family Justice Centre.  
+
Family justice counsellors in '''Family Justice Centres''' throughout BC can help couples with understanding spousal support, preparing a separation agreement, and obtaining a support order in Provincial Court. Their services are free.  
 +
:Telephone: 604-660-2421 in the Lower Mainland and 250-387-6121 in Greater Victoria
 +
:Toll-free: 1-800-663-7867
 +
:Web: [http://www.justicebc.ca/en/fam/ justicebc.ca/en/fam]
  
*See the [http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/life-events/divorce/family-justice Family Justice website].
+
===More information===
 +
The Legal Services Society’s '''Family Law in BC website''' features information on spousal support and step-by-step guides on going to court in family matters.
 +
:Web: [https://familylaw.lss.bc.ca/legal_issues/supportSpouseBasics.php familylaw.lss.bc.ca
  
*The laws referred in this script are available at [http://www.bclaws.ca/ www.bclaws.ca] or [http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/ http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca].
+
The wikibook '''''JP Boyd on Family Law''''', hosted by Courthouse Libraries BC, has indepth information on spousal support.
 +
:Web: [http://wiki.clicklaw.bc.ca/index.php/Spousal_Support wiki.clicklaw.bc.ca]
  
*See the [http://wiki.clicklaw.bc.ca/index.php/Spousal_Support Spousal Support section] of the ''wikibook JP Boyd on Family Law'', published by Courthouse Libraries BC.
 
  
  
 
[updated May 2017]
 
[updated May 2017]
  
'''The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Zahra H. Jimale.'''
+
'''The above was last reviewed for legal accuracy by [http://jimalelawcorp.com/about-zahra/ Zahra H. Jimale], Jimale Law Corporation.'''
 +
 
 +
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Revision as of 22:55, 12 February 2019

When a relationship ends, one spouse may seek help from the other with living expenses or to compensate for choices the spouses made during the relationship. Learn about spousal support.

Understand your legal rights[edit]

Spousal support helps a former spouse with living expenses[edit]

Spousal support is money paid to a former spouse to help with living expenses. The money is paid under an agreement or court order after a relationship ends.

Although anyone who was in a married or unmarried spousal relationship can apply for spousal support, there is no automatic right to receive support just because of the relationship. Whether spousal support will be paid, and, if so, how much, depends on the particular circumstances of each couple.

Who can claim spousal support[edit]

Everyone who qualifies as a “spouse” can claim spousal support after separation.

Under the federal Divorce Act, spouses are people who are married to each other.

Under BC’s Family Law Act, spouses are people who:

  • are married,
  • have lived together in a “marriage-like relationship” for at least two years, or
  • have lived together in a “marriage-like relationship” for less than two years and have a child together.

When a spouse is entitled to spousal support[edit]

Spousal support is intended to do four things:

  • recognize any financial advantages or disadvantages a spouse may face because of the relationship or the breakup
  • make both spouses share any financial consequences arising from the care of their children during the relationship
  • make sure neither spouse faces economic hardship as a result of the breakup
  • if possible, help each spouse become financially independent within a reasonable amount of time

A spouse’s entitlement to spousal support depends on several factors, including:

  • The length of the relationship: The longer the relationship, the more likely spousal support will be awarded.
  • Difference in incomes: The greater the difference in income between the spouses at the end of a relationship, the more likely spousal support will be awarded.
  • Economic disadvantage: The more economically disadvantaged a spouse is as a result of the relationship (due, for example, to leaving the workforce to raise a child, and therefore missing out on developing job skills and on getting raises), the more likely spousal support will be awarded.
  • Earning capacity: The more one spouse’s earning capacity is reduced because of family obligations like child care or a serious illness the more likely spousal support will be awarded.

Generally, if one spouse supported the other during their relationship, that spouse will be expected to continue to contribute to the support of the other spouse after the relationship breaks down. On the other hand, if both spouses were financially independent during the relationship, then in general, neither will be entitled to receive financial support after separation.

The effect of a spouse’s behaviour on support[edit]

The conduct of the spouses is usually irrelevant when deciding spousal support. For example, a spouse will not be denied support because they had an affair or because they were violent or suffered violence.

Under the Family Law Act, however, a court can consider conduct that:

  • unreasonably causes or prolongs a need for spousal support, or
  • unreasonably affects a spouse’s ability to pay spousal support.

The amount of spousal support[edit]

Where a spouse is entitled to receive spousal support, the amount of spousal support is usually determined using the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. These Guidelines are used whether the amount is being determined by a court or negotiated by the parties.

The Guidelines use a number of mathematical formulas to calculate spousal support ranges and the length of time for which support should be paid.

The formulas used to determine these ranges can be complicated, especially if a child is involved. Software programs make some of the more difficult calculations easier. Some companies in the private sector sell software for this purpose — for example, DivorceMate. There are also free online calculators such as mysupportcalculator.ca that can do simple calculations.

How long spousal support is paid for[edit]

Once a spouse's entitlement to spousal support is established and the amount of support payments fixed, the next step is to look at how long the support payments will be paid for.

The law expects each spouse to make reasonable efforts to become self-supporting if at all possible. To encourage this, support payments may be limited to a certain length of time. For example, if a spouse needs to get job training before returning to work, payments may be limited to the period of time needed to complete that training.

The length of the spouses’ relationship is often a significant factor in determining how long spousal support will be paid. For people leaving long relationships, spousal support might be paid permanently or until retirement. The courts recognize that the older a person is, the harder it generally is to return to the workforce or retrain.

For people in shorter relationships, particularly where the person receiving support payments is either working outside the home or capable of working outside the home, support might only be payable for a fixed length of time.

How to get spousal support[edit]

Arrangements for spousal support can be made in a separation agreement. If spouses cannot agree on the payment of spousal support, one of them can apply to court for an order that spousal support be paid. Married spouses can seek spousal support under either the federal Divorce Act or the provincial Family Law Act. Unmarried spouses can only ask for spousal support under the Family Law Act.

Which court to go to[edit]

To apply for spousal support under the Divorce Act, or under both laws, the claim must be made in BC Supreme Court. To apply for support under the Family Law Act, the claim can be made in either the Supreme Court or the Provincial Court. Each court has its own forms and rules. For Provincial Court, see our information on Family Court (no. 110).

Getting “interim” support[edit]

While the court case is in progress, either spouse may ask the court for an “interim order” for spousal support. This is a temporary order meant to last until the case is settled or goes to trial. For more on interim orders, see our information on applying for an interim order in a family law case in Supreme Court (no. 112).

Both spouses must provide full financial disclosure[edit]

Full financial disclosure is required of both spouses when making decisions about spousal support, whether the spouses are in court or are trying to negotiate a resolution outside of court. Spouses often complete and exchange financial statements using the forms required by the courts, even when they’re not in a court proceeding.

Financial statements help to give the spouses a complete picture of their property and debts, income and liabilities, and are usually provided along with important documents like income tax returns and tax assessments.

Common questions[edit]

What are the tax consequences of spousal support?[edit]

Spousal support is taxable income in the hands of the spouse who receives it, and deductible from the taxable income of the spouse who pays it. The person receiving support payments must report the income to Canada Revenue Agency and pay tax on it, just like employment income. The person paying support is allowed to claim the payments as a tax deduction, just like RRSP contributions.

For spousal support payments to be taxable and deductible, the payments must be:

  • paid because of a written agreement or a court order,
  • paid on a periodic basis, such as once a month or once every two weeks, and
  • actually paid.

Other kinds of support payments — such as payments made in a lump sum or payments made by providing services — are not taxable or deductible. It may be necessary to speak to a lawyer to confirm the tax status of spousal support payments.

The tax consequences of support payments should be taken into account when determining the amount of support that should be paid. For more on this, see our information on the tax implications of support payments (no. 133).

What if I’m on income assistance?[edit]

After a couple separates, if one spouse applies for or is receiving income assistance, the BC government may ask them to assign their rights to spousal support to the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. This allows the Ministry to take steps to collect spousal support on their behalf, and to keep some or all of the support it collects.

What happens if circumstances change?[edit]

If there’s a significant change in the financial circumstances of either spouse after spousal support has been ordered or agreed to, it is almost always possible to apply to change the support order or to renegotiate a separation agreement. Examples include if either spouse’s financial situation unexpectedly worsens, or the paying spouse gets better paying work. Generally, the change must be significant and must not have been foreseeable when the support order or agreement was made.

What can I do if my spouse won’t pay the support?[edit]

If your spouse does not pay spousal support as ordered or agreed, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program can help free of charge. This BC government program can help you collect support payments that are owed and monitor a support order to make sure payments continue to be made. For more details, see our information on enforcing support orders and agreements (no. 132).

Get help[edit]

With spousal support[edit]

Family justice counsellors in Family Justice Centres throughout BC can help couples with understanding spousal support, preparing a separation agreement, and obtaining a support order in Provincial Court. Their services are free.

Telephone: 604-660-2421 in the Lower Mainland and 250-387-6121 in Greater Victoria
Toll-free: 1-800-663-7867
Web: justicebc.ca/en/fam

More information[edit]

The Legal Services Society’s Family Law in BC website features information on spousal support and step-by-step guides on going to court in family matters.

Web: [https://familylaw.lss.bc.ca/legal_issues/supportSpouseBasics.php familylaw.lss.bc.ca

The wikibook JP Boyd on Family Law, hosted by Courthouse Libraries BC, has indepth information on spousal support.

Web: wiki.clicklaw.bc.ca


[updated May 2017]

The above was last reviewed for legal accuracy by Zahra H. Jimale, Jimale Law Corporation.



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