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Are spousal support guidelines used in spousal support reviews?

In 2008, Ontario’s Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines were issued in their final form. The guidelines are used by judges and lawyers to establish spousal support agreements. As we discussed in a previous post, a number of factors, including child support, can affect how much spousal support a person receives. Use of the spousal support guidelines is not mandatory, though they are used in many cases.

Since the guidelines came out, there has been debate about whether they should be used in spousal support reviews to determine whether the amount should be raised or lowered. Recently, the Ontario Court of Appeal helped to clarify the matter.

Despite previous decisions to the contrary, the court found that the support guidelines can be used in spousal support variation proceedings. The finding pertained to the case of a woman whose monthly spousal support amount was initially set at $800 a month. That level of support was lower than it would have been if her divorce judgment didn’t also provide for $2,300 in monthly child support.

The woman’s former husband’s child support obligation lessened as the children grew older, and the woman sought to have her spousal support amount increased as the child support decreased. Her claim was dismissed by a court, and a trial judge ordered the spousal support amount to continue at $800 a month.

The woman appealed, however, and the Ontario Court of Appeal found the trial judge to be in error. In short, the appeal court panel unanimously found that the spousal support guidelines should have been used to change the woman’s spousal support amount after the child support amount was reduced.

You can read more details of this key ruling here.

For more on reaching fair spousal support agreements, please visit

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