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What is spousal support?

Question
What is spousal support?

Glossary

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Reviewed: 
September, 2015
Answer

When you and your partner separate or divorce, you may get spousal support from your partner. Or, you may have to pay spousal support to your partner.

Spousal support applies to partners who are married and to partners in a common-law relationship. Partners can be same-sex.

Spousal support is paid by the partner who earns more to the partner who earns less. The person who gets support is called the support recipient. The person who pays support is called the support payor.

The purpose of spousal support is to:

  • Recognize each partner's contributions to the relationship.
  • Make things more even for a partner who lost out financially during the relationship. For example, one partner may not have continued with their career so they could care for the children and is not able to support themselves right away.
  • Share the costs of caring for the children.
  • Relieve financial hardship.
  • Help a partner become able to support themselves. For example, by going to school to upgrade their skills and get a job.

Spousal support is not automatic. You can only get it if you're entitled to it. And, even if you're entitled to it, the law expects you to try to support yourself as soon as possible after separation.

You and your partner can try to reach an agreement about spousal support. If you can't agree, you can get help from a family law professional or go to court and ask a judge to decide.

There are rules about spousal support and social assistance. Social assistance includes Ontario Works and the Ontario Disibility Support Program.

You can talk to a lawyer who can help you understand what the law says about spousal support. 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.

Learn more about this topic
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General
Springtide Resources
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)

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