Spouses, whether married or common-law, are obligated to provide spousal support or maintenance upon the breakup of their marriage.
While there is an obligation to support a spouse following a breakup, spouses also have a corresponding duty to become and remain self-sufficient. There is, therefore, the obligation to support a spouse, pitched against that spouse's duty to become and remain self-sufficient.
When assessing the matter of entitlement, the courts will first look at the ability of the spouse applying for support to support themselves, keeping in mind a variety of statutory considerations. If the spouse requesting support has the ability to support themselves at an appropriate level, the court will not likely award support. If the spouse seeking support has the ability to become self-sufficient, the court may award support for a limited period of time to allow the spouse seeking support the opportunity to become and remain self-sufficient. An order for permanent support will be made if it is unlikely the spouse seeking support will ever become and remain self-sufficient because of illness, disability, age or other factors.
Occasionally the obligation to support a spouse can be partially or fully discharged through a single lump sum payment, or the transfer of a significant asset. In other cases, the court looks carefully at the income and expenses, or means and needs of the parties to assess an appropriate level of support.
The law of spousal support is extremely complicated. There are long lasting or permanent financial consequences to both parties. In addition, while child support is neither tax deductible by the payer or taxable by the recipient, spousal support is subtracted from the income of the payer and added to the income of the recipient. Therefore, tax considerations must also be carefully weighed. One must also consider the impact of lump sum payments or an unequal division of assets, as well. It is therefore prudent and wise to bring together a team of experts, such as skilled and knowledgeable legal counsel and accountants to fully assess a claim for spousal support.