Margaret Black Professional Corporation 

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Common Myths when it comes to spousal support

By Vanessa Tynes-Jass - Senior Family Lawyer

October 17, 2020

When people come into my office to share their stories regarding the breakdown of their marriages, I am constantly reminded that most people are simply unaware of what circumstances cause spousal support to come into play during their separation.  In addition to this, some lawyers advise clients incorrectly because they rely on spousal support calculators to pass on to their clients as "legal advice" on the length and amount of spousal support.  I will highlight a few myths that are floating around with respect to spousal support: 

1.  Being married for a long time means that spousal support is payable for "life" - While a marriage that is classified as. a long marriage (15+ years), it does not necessarily mean that spousal support would be for the recipient's entire life.  If the circumstances warrant long term spousal support, there are many other circumstances that change the amount of and length of support.  The age of the parties, their professions, their role in their marriage, and their earning capacity, even at a minimum wage job, are all things that must be considered to determine spousal support.  

2.  If I have shared parenting there will not be any spousal support - It is commendable when parents put their differences aside and enter into a shared parenting agreement where the children share their time equally between the separated households.  While this situation may lower child support payable significantly, it does not do the same for spousal support.  When shared parenting exists, then spousal support is usually increased for the gap in income between the parties. For Example, if someone is required to pay $2000 in child support and nothing in spousal support because priority is given for child support as a result of a primary care parenting arrangement, there may not be any funds left for spousal support.  If the parties decided to enter into shared parenting, then the child support may be reduced to $750 and spousal support increased to $1250 to equalize the parties' incomes.  

3.  You only have to pay spousal support if you are married - While the Divorce Act regulates spousal support for married couples, the Family Law Act regulates spousal support for unmarried couples.  The principles are almost the same as outlined in Divorce cases.  It is always smart to have a cohabitation agreement before you move in with someone long term that will define the spousal support obligations after a breakup.

4.  Once you sign your agreement or get a court order, spousal support never changes - Spousal support is something that can be changed by a number of circumstances.  Income levels are monitored each year and either party can make an application to change the support if they feel like it is warranted.  Other circumstances like, education, remarriages, new common law relationships or roommates that provide a financial contribution to the household are all taken into consideration.  Only when the parties sign a full release and waiver of future spousal support obligations are they set in stone.  

Spousal support is not mandated like the child support guidelines.  The spousal support advisory guidelines and calculators are tools that allow lawyers and the courts to properly calculate the Net disposable income of the parties, IF the parties have passed the test for entitlement first.  Then they court determines the length of support based on several factors that are very case specific, and no two cases are exact.  The caselaw usually aids Judges in making these decisions.  As with any case, the parties have the best chance to negotiate something that is in their own best interests if they can.  

If you have any questions about family law in general, or custody, access, parenting, divorce, and surrounding issues, please reach out to us on our contact form or by telephone at 905-833-9090. With almost 68 years of specialized experience in Family Law, we would be happy to set up a consult with you. 


Proud to be different.

14 February 2019

I will not do it. I just cannot.

I am writing about how I see the injustice in today's family law practice. I notice all too often lawyers forcing matters into Family court when it is simply not needed or warranted. I am not writing to advocate for mediation or arbitration, that is for another article. I am acknowledging that access to real justice is almost impossible for the general public because of the costs for a reputable and competent family law lawyer. Yes, I too am a family lawyer, and I do profit from having family law clients, however I did not start a family law practice to get "rich" from family law clients. There are plenty of lawyers in this town, and it is hard to find a great one without a word of mouth referral. I can only speak to what my firm stands for.

In an age where legal fees for family matters are as high as $700,000 for a divorce proceeding that has lasted years in litigation, where most work is automated, and most lawyers are up to date on legal tech use in their offices, there is simply no need for exorbitant legal fees to be taxed onto families that are separating their families. There are many ways to cost cut on family matters.

These are some things that I can pledge to any of my family law clients:

I will not provide advice to you that would likely end you up in a court hearing, unless it is required.

I will never purposefully fuel acrimony with the opposing counsel in an effort to boost my time on your file.

I will take any precautions on your file to save you legal fees and disbursements and communicate fully all options available to you before making any financial choice.

I will advise you when I believe you are exposing yourself to a costs award against you.

I will do my best to use alternative dispute measures, offered by the court, to ensure judicial input on settlement agreements to help end your case quickly, fairly, and as inexpensive as possible.

I will use my experience to guide you in all matters related to your separation and divorce, including my real estate law experience, business experience, and common sense.

My hope is that people are obtaining access to justice and they are able to bring their family matter to a quick and reasonable conclusion without breaking the bank.