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Do I have to pay spousal support?
Clear language definitions to common legal terms.
When you and your partner separate or divorce, you may have to pay spousal support to your partner if your income is higher. You're called the support payor and your partner is called the support recipient.
Spousal support is not automatic. Your partner must be entitled to it. For example, if:
- Your partner is leaving the relationship in a worse financial position than you.
- Your partner did not continue with their career because they took care of the home and children, which allowed you to build your career.
- You and your partner signed a contract that says you will pay spousal support if your relationship ends.
If your partner is entitled to spousal support, the amount you pay and how long you pay it depend on things like:
- how long you and your partner lived together
- if you have children together and who has been caring for them
- each partner's income
- each partner's age
- the roles each partner had during the marriage, for example if you were the main income earner
Courts use the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAGs) to help them decide how much spousal support should be paid and for how long. These are only guidelines, not laws.
You need special software to calculate spousal support using the SSAGs. This free online calculator can give you a rough idea but it only does simple calculations, and it only takes employment income into account.
You can talk to a lawyer to help you understand what the law says about spousal support and if you're responsible for paying it. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers provide "unbundled" or "limited scope" services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case.
If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.