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What factors do Ontario judges consider when making spousal support decisions?

When you think of marriage, you likely think of a relationship based on emotions and shared experience. But the law views marriage differently. In Canada, provincial, territorial and federal laws treat spousal relationships as financial partnerships, and the law sets out rules for the division of matrimonial property when a spousal relationship ends.

Often spousal support is one of the more complex and contentious financial issues at the end of a marriage. Ontario has instituted advisory Spousal Support Guidelines to help divorcing spouses come to an agreement on the amount and duration of support. Generally, at the time of separation, if there is a sizable difference between the parties’ incomes, then the spouse with the higher income is more likely to have an obligation to pay.

However, having significantly more assets does not automatically mean that a spouse is obligated to pay support.

Unlike the Child Support Guidelines, the Spousal Support Guidelines are only advisory, and the court is not required to use them. The court probably will use them, however, and in so doing will consider an array of factors, including the following:

  • The needs of the spouse seeking support
  • The ability of the other spouse to pay
  • How long the parties were married
  • The ages of the parties
  • Whether the care of children is an issue
  • The roles each spouse played during the marriage
  • How those roles and the end of the marriage will affect each party’s financial situation
  • Whether support would help the spouse requesting it to become financially self-sufficient
  • Whether the difference in the parties’ incomes is linked to anything that happened during the marriage 
  • Any pre- or post-matrimonial agreements the spouses may have reached with regard to spousal support

For more on particularly complex issues related to spousal support, property division and staying in or leaving the matrimonial home, please see’s spousal support overview.

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