Do I have to pay spousal support?

2. Figure out if your partner is entitled to spousal support

There are 3 ways your partner can be entitled to . More than one of them may apply to your situation:

  1. Your partner had responsibilities during the relationship, such as taking care of your children or helping you build your career. Because of that your partner lost the chance to make their own career. This is called “compensatory spousal support”.
  2. The breakdown of your relationship leaves your partner in need and you have enough income and to pay spousal support. This is called needs-based support or “non-compensatory spousal support”.
  3. You and your partner have a , , or other agreement that says if you separate, you will pay spousal support. This is called “contractual spousal support”.

The court looks at factors 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 overall financial situation

Even if your partner is entitled to spousal support, the law expects them to try to become self-supporting as soon as possible after separation. This is sometimes called a “duty to become self-sufficient”.


When Sara and Abraham started living together, she was working as a nurse. She stayed home after their 3 children were born and hasn't worked outside the home for 15 years. This allowed Abraham to focus on his career as a teacher.

At separation, Sara has no income and assets in her own name. She needs to re-train to go back to work as a nurse. Sara is entitled to spousal support on a compensatory basis, because she gave up a career to stay home with the kids. She is also entitled to support on a needs basis. She has no way to support herself while she goes back to school, and Abraham has enough money to support her.

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