The area of spousal support is always evolving as it is a complex area of the law. Recently, we have seen some notable spousal support matters being heard in Alberta courts. The main reason that spousal support can be difficult to navigate is that there are so many variables that impact the amounts to be paid / received by each party. In Alberta, we rely on guidelines to assist in ensuring the law is consistent and yields fair results for all parties.
What Factors Are Used to Determine Spousal Support in Alberta
Parties to a divorce may apply for spousal support. The amount of support ordered, if any at all, will be determined by the courts, or if you choose an alternative resolution method, you and your partner have some flexibility to reach an agreement on spousal support that might be different than what the courts would order. The court looks to a variety of factors when determining spousal support such as the length of the marriage or relationship, the occupations and homecare of both parties, and any orders or agreements in place by the court or the parties. The court will also take into consideration the economic situations of both parties at the breakdown of the marriage, the impact that child rearing has on the finances of either party and if a financial hardship would be put on to either party if support is awarded. Finally, what the court will NOT look to is the reason for the breakdown of the marriage. This means, the court will not award spousal support to punish certain behaviour such as adultery.
What Does It Mean to Impute an Income?
The concept of imputing income is the Courts solution to the problem of parties intentionally under-employing themselves to reduce the amount of spousal support payable. In the recent Zigiris v. Foustanellas decision, the court focused on the importance of the spouse receiving spousal support to actively seek professional employment that corresponds to their education and training. If the party does not take reasonable actions to obtain employment consistent with their experience, the court reserves the right to impute their income. What this means is that the Court is able to assign the party with an income that they see rational considering age, education, skills, past work experience and health of the party. The court will then use this imputed income to determine spousal support payments.
What Happens to Spousal Support If the Payor Retires?
As grey divorces become more common so do the issue that come along with a divorce later in life. Couples often struggle to determine how to divide their finances after they have been sharing a joint account or acquiring joint assets for many years. Another issue is what happens to spousal support payments once the payor retires and is living off their pension or other financial means? Often, the party paying support will ask the court to reduce or terminate support payments. However, this can result in expensive legal fees which are counter productive to the payors goal. Fortunately, the Court is progressing their ideas of spousal support as grey divorce become the norm. The court will look to the individual situations of each party and make a decision based on their financial positions.
Disclaimer: The content provided in the blog posts of Jones Divorce & Family Law is general information and should not be considered legal advice. Please contact a lawyer for legal advice tailored to your specific situation. All articles are current as of their original publication date.