How Long Does Spousal Support Last?

Spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance, is a critical aspect of family law in British Columbia. It is intended to assist a financially disadvantaged spouse in maintaining a similar standard of living post-separation or divorce. The duration of spousal support is a complex matter and can vary depending on several factors. In this blog post, we will delve into the question, “How long does spousal support last in British Columbia?” while exploring the relevant factors that courts consider in determining the duration of such support.

Duration of Spousal Support:

The duration of spousal support in British Columbia is not set in stone, and it can be temporary or indefinite, based on the unique circumstances of each case. In British Columbia we use the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines to assist us in determining what we hope will be a fair entitlement between the parties.

Relevant Factors for Consideration:

  1. Length of the Relationship/Marriage: The duration of the relationship is a crucial factor in determining spousal support. Generally, the longer the marriage, the more likely it is that spousal support will last for a considerable period. In long-term marriages, the financially disadvantaged spouse may have become accustomed to a particular lifestyle and may need more time to transition to an independent financial situation. Having said this, according to recent caselaw there is also an onus on the disadvantaged spouse to be self sufficient and in some cases, demonstrate to the courts that they have taken steps to secure employment.
  2. Income Disparity: The difference in income between the spouses plays a significant role in determining the duration of spousal support. If one spouse significantly out-earns the other and there is a substantial income disparity, spousal support may be required for a longer period to bridge the financial gap.
  3. Age and Health: The age and health of the spouses are factors that courts consider. If one spouse has health issues that hinder their ability to work or find employment, spousal support may be extended to support their needs.
  4. Financial Contributions and Sacrifices: The court will examine the financial contributions and sacrifices made by each spouse during the relationship. For example, if one spouse supported the other’s career advancement by foregoing their own career opportunities, this could be a factor in awarding longer-term support. We sometimes find that one spouse has taken care of the children and ultimately given up their chance in a career to support their spouse. This is another factor that a court will consider when determining spousal support.
  5. Ability to Become Self-Supporting: The court will assess the recipient spouse’s ability to become self-supporting within a reasonable period. Factors such as education, job skills, and employment opportunities will be evaluated.
  6. Existing Agreements: If the spouses have a prenuptial agreement or a separation agreement that addresses spousal support, the terms outlined in these agreements will be considered.

Therefore, the duration of spousal support in British Columbia varies based on the specific circumstances of each case. While some support arrangements may be temporary to provide assistance during a transitional period, others may be indefinite, especially in long-term marriages where significant income disparities exist. The court considers various factors, such as the length of the relationship, income disparity, age, and health of the spouses, as well as custodial responsibilities and the ability to become self-supporting.

If you are facing spousal support issues, it is crucial to seek legal advice from a family law professional who can analyze your unique situation and help you navigate the complexities of spousal support in British Columbia.

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Aisha Naveed

Aisha primarily practices in the area of family law. She has successfully represented clients in both the Provincial and Supreme Courts of British Columbia.

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