The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines

The Spousal support advisory guidelines - how are they applied?

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The spousal support advisory guidelines apply to the situation of how much spousal support (or alimony which it is commonly known as) is paid once parties separate.

Just like the Federal Child Support Guidelines the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines were developed to bring more certainty and predictability to the determination of spousal support under the federal Divorce Act. The Advisory Guidelines are not specifically a law or piece of legislation. At the same time, lawyers and courts are using them more and more to determine the amounts of spousal support to be paid given parties' incomes.

One of the big things to remember when dealing with these guidelines is there is a built-in assumption that one person is to pay support and the other spouse is to receive support. It is important to remember that just because people are separated and one person makes more money than the other it does not necessarily mean that there is entitlement to spousal support. The question of entitlement is determined by the facts of each case. It is important to have your lawyer do a review of the specific facts of your case if there is a question about entitlement.

In addition to all of this, the guidelines do not take into account situations of needs-based claims of spousal support. For example, in one case, Eng. v. Eng., a British Columbia Supreme Court decision, the court was asked to provide long-term support from the husband to the wife because the wife was seriously ill and unable to work. This was going to be an ongoing problem for her. When the parties looked at the guidelines, it had a reduced amount of support and a very limited time of support due to the fact that these parties were only married for 4 short years. The court decided to move outside of what the guidelines said because of the significant needs of the wife and the husband's ability to pay due to his income. So, in essence, despite what the guidelines said, the court ordered long-term support with no end date to that support. The court also ordered that the amount payable was significantly higher than what the guidelines stated.

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