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Can common law spouses in Ontario receive spousal support?

In Ontario, married and common law couples who are splitting up can create and sign separation agreements. These agreements can address a wide variety of issues. Today let’s discuss spousal support.

When deciding whether or not spousal support should be paid, it is important that each spouse or common law partner has a lawyer. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines that are used in Ontario are complicated, and a divorce and property division lawyer with experience in using the guidelines can help ensure that the separation agreement is fair.

Use of the spousal support guidelinesĀ is not mandatory, but if the parties can’t agree on the terms of the separation and the matter goes to court, then the judge is likely to use the guidelines to make a decision.

The Ministry of the Attorney General provides a booklet with information on a variety family law issues, including support.

In general, spousal support is likely to be paid to the spouse with significantly lower income. The support can serve a number of purposes. For example, if you have a lower income than your spouse and you sacrificed your career to help bolster your spouse’s, then support may be paid as compensation for your sacrifice during the marriage.

Spousal support may also be paid to help with the ongoing care of a child or to provide financial help to a spouse in need.

However, just because one spouse has a higher income than the other does not necessarily mean that spousal support should be paid. If the spouse with the higher income is not in a position to pay, then the separation agreement need not include spousal support.

Common law spouses may also ask for support. Generally, the couple must have lived together for three or more years, or the couple must have a child together.

Our previous post, “How to guard against an unfair spousal support arrangement,” has more on the factors to consider when deciding the amount of child support and how long it should be paid.

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