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Spousal Support

Mississauga, Oakville & the GTA

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Spousal Support Lawyer in Mississauga

Spousal support is money paid by one spouse to the other after they separate or divorce. Spousal support is almost always paid by the spouse with the higher income to the spouse with the lower income. The gender of the spouses does not matter.

Both married and unmarried (common-law) spouses may be able to get spousal support, or may have to pay spousal support. If the spouses are not married, they must have lived together as a couple:

  • for at least 3 years, or
  • for any length of time if they were in a relationship of “some permanence” and had a child together.
Mediation-Lawyer

What is spousal support for?

The purposes of spousal support are to:

  • recognize a spouse’s contributions to the relationship,
  • share the financial costs of caring for a child,
  • relieve financial hardship,
  • help a spouse become able to contribute to his or her own support, or
  • correct any economic advantage or disadvantage to a spouse caused by the relationship or the relationship breakdown. For example, if a spouse gave up their job to care for the children, they may not be able to become self-supporting right away.

In most situations, spouses are expected to try to become self-supporting as soon as possible.

How do you get spousal support?

Spousal support can be negotiated and agreed on by the spouses and written into a separation agreement. This is often done along with other issues such as child support, parenting arrangements (custody and access), and property division.

Lawyers and mediators can help the spouses reach an agreement. But if the spouses cannot agree, a judge or arbitrator can decide.

How do judges decide on spousal support?

A judge may decide that one spouse must pay support because of his or her ability to pay and the other spouse’s financial need. Or the reason may be to compensate the other spouse for unpaid work that he or she did during the relationship.

If the judge decides there should be spousal support, the judge must then decide the amount of support and for how long it must be paid. The judge will take into account things such as:

  • the length of the relationship,
  • whether there are children and what arrangements have been made for them,
  • the roles the spouses played during the relationship,
  • the age of each spouse, and
  • each spouse’s financial situation.

The judge may also consider the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAGs).

What are the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines?

The Guidelines have been used since 2008 to help people decide how much spousal support should be paid and for how long. They are only guides, but they are often used by lawyers and judges. The Guidelines cannot be used to decide if someone should get spousal support or not. That must be decided first.

The Guidelines take many things into account and are quite complicated. When all the information has been gathered and a calculation has been done, the Guidelines will give low, middle, and high ranges of support amounts to consider. This can help the spouses or a judge decide what amount is right depending on the circumstances.

How is spousal support paid?

Spousal support is usually paid each month, but sometimes it can be paid in a “lump sum” (all together).

How are spousal support payments taxed?

Monthly spousal support is taxable for the spouse receiving support (the “recipient”) and tax deductible for the spouse paying support (the “payor”). This is different from how child support is taxed.

But if the support is paid all at once in a lump sum it is not taxable for the recipient and the payor cannot claim it as a tax deduction.

How is spousal support enforced?

A provincial government office called the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) can enforce support payments. The court automatically files all support orders with the FRO. Separation agreements can also be filed there if they have been filed with the court. The FRO tells the payor spouse to make all support payments to the FRO. When the FRO receives a payment, it sends a check to the recipient spouse, or deposits the money directly into the recipient’s bank account.

The FRO has different ways to collect unpaid support from the payor. It can:

  • have the payments automatically deducted from their wages or other income (for example, sales commissions, Employment Insurance, Workers’ Compensation, income tax refunds, severance pay, and pensions),
  • register a charge (a lien) against their personal property or real estate,
  • take money from (garnish) their bank account, or garnish up to half of a joint bank account that they have with someone else, or
  • make an order against anyone who is helping them hide income or assets that should go toward support.

The FRO can also put pressure on spouses who do not make their support payments by:

  • suspending their driver’s license,
  • reporting them to credit bureaus so that it will be difficult for them to get loans, or
  • cancelling their passports.

The FRO can help you collect money from a payor who lives in Canada, the United States, or another country that Ontario has an agreement with. If Ontario does not have an agreement with the country where the payor lives, the FRO cannot help you collect support.

The FRO cannot change the amount that the order or agreement says the payor has to pay. If either spouse thinks that a change in the situation justifies a change in the support amount, they can try to get a new agreement or go to court to try to get the support order changed.

Mississauga Child Support FAQS

Every parent has a legal duty to support their dependent children. This includes parents who are separated, divorced, or who have never lived together. A parent can be the birth mother or father, an adoptive parent, or sometimes a stepparent.

A stepparent is someone who has treated their spouse’s children as members of their own family. It does not matter if the spouses were legally married to each other or living common-law. But the more time that has passed since the stepparent had an ongoing relationship with the child, the less likely it is that the court will order the stepparent to pay child support. This is especially true if their social and emotional relationship with the child has ended.

More than one parent could have a legal duty to pay child support for the same child. For example, if a child’s birth parent and stepparent separate, the other birth parent and the stepparent might both have to pay support for the child.

A biological father has a legal duty to support his child financially. This is true even if he was never married to, lived with, or had an ongoing relationship with his child’s mother. If a man denies that he is the biological father, a court can give him a chance to have a blood or DNA test to find out. If he refuses, a court may assume that he is the biological father.

Canada has established Federal Child Support Guidelines that provide a formula for determining appropriate support payments. These guidelines are based on the number of children to be supported, the province in which the paying parent resides, and his or her yearly income prior to taxes. Information is also provided as to how special circumstances or expenses may affect support payment amounts.

The amount of child support is generally based on these Guidelines unless the parents agree to something different. Parents who reach an out-of-court agreement about support do not have to apply the Guidelines. But they should look at the Guidelines before deciding how much support will be paid. If they do not apply the Guidelines, their agreement should say why not. If the court is later asked to consider the amount of support, the judge can change the amount to reflect the Guidelines.

The Child Support Guidelines have a Child Support Table for each province and territory. The Table shows the monthly amounts of support to be paid, based on the “gross income” of the payor parent and the number of children being supported. Gross income means before taxes and most other deductions. It is usually the amount on line 150 of the parent’s income tax return.

In simple cases, the Table determines how much money will be paid. In more complicated cases, the Table is used as the starting point for deciding the amount of support.

The Child Support Table for each province and territory varies. If both parents live in Ontario, the Ontario Table applies. If the payor parent lives outside of Canada and the other parent in Ontario, the Ontario Table applies. If the payor parent lives in another Canadian province or territory, the Table for that province or territory applies.

Sometimes a judge will not accept the stated income of the payor parent. Instead, the judge may use an income amount that is reasonable based on factors such as the parent’s work history, past income, and education. The judge will then apply the Table to that income.

A judge might do this if the parent:

  • fails to provide the required income information,
  • is unemployed or underemployed on purpose, or
  • is self-employed or working “under the table,” and there is reason to believe the parent does not report all of his or her income.

Payor parents are required to provide detailed information about their income within 30 days after a support application is made. If the income of the other parent is also considered when determining support, that parent must provide the same information.

Examples of information that must be provided include:

  • income tax returns,
  • statements of earnings from employers,
  • financial statements if the parent owns a business, and
  • notices of assessment and reassessment.

If support is ordered by the court, the parent who had to provide financial information must update this information if the other parent asks. The other parent can only ask for an update once a year.

If support is included in a separation agreement, it is a good idea for the parent receiving support to make sure the agreement says the other parent must update their financial information each year.

Some parents are able to work out a support agreement on their own. They can use the Child Support Guidelines to see how much support a judge might order. It is recommended that one of the parents has a lawyer put the agreement in writing and that the other parent uses his or her own separate lawyer to review it. That way parents can ensure that the agreement says what they meant and that it protects their rights and their children’s rights.

Parents who cannot agree about support payments should get legal help. Each parent should hire a separate lawyer. The lawyers may be able to negotiate support terms that both parents accept. If not, they can go to court and ask a judge to decide. The judge will make a court order saying how much child support must be paid.

An Ontario government office called the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) can enforce support payments. The court automatically files all support orders with the FRO. Separation agreements can also be filed there if they have been filed with the court. The FRO tells the payor parent to make all support payments to the FRO. When the FRO receives a payment, it sends a cheque to the other parent or deposits the money directly into that parent’s bank account.

If any payments are missed, the FRO takes action to enforce the order or agreement. To do this, the FRO needs up-to-date information about the payor parent. This includes his or her full name, address, social insurance number, place of employment or business, income, and any property owned. The parent receiving support puts this information on a “Support Deduction Information Form” which is available at the court. This form is given to the FRO along with the support order or agreement. It is important to update this form whenever the information changes.

Sometimes parents receiving support withdraw from the FRO because it is easier to receive payments directly from the other parent. If problems arise later, however, and they want to re-file with the FRO, they might have to pay a fee.

The FRO has different ways to collect unpaid support from payor parents. It can:

  • have the payments automatically deducted from their wages or other income (for example: sales commissions, Employment Insurance, Workers’ Compensation, income tax refunds, severance pay, and pensions),
  • register a charge (a lien) against their personal property or real estate,
  • take money from (garnish) their bank account or garnish up to half of a joint bank account that they have with someone else, or
  • make an order against anyone who is helping them hide income or assets that should go toward support.

The FRO can also put pressure on parents who do not make their support payments by:

  • suspending their driver’s license,
  • reporting them to credit bureaus so that it will be difficult for them to get loans, or
  • cancelling their passports.

The FRO can help collect money from a payor parent who lives in Canada, the United States, or another country with which Ontario has an agreement. If Ontario does not have an agreement with the country where the payor parent lives, the FRO cannot help you collect support.

The FRO cannot change the amount that the order or agreement declares the payor parent must pay. If either parent thinks that a change in the situation justifies a modification in the support amount, they can try to get a new agreement or go to court to try to get the support order changed.

Our Practice Areas

Divorce & Separation​

While obtaining a divorce can be straightforward, a court order is always required. Sometimes, people agree to issues like custody and support on their own and only apply to the court to obtain a divorce. Those cases, called uncontested divorces, take a relatively short amount of time and cost relatively little.

Custody & Access

Custody technically means the legal responsibility to make decisions for the child related to health, education and religion. Access is the right to be with the child at a given time. The basic issues that revolve around custody are: who will make the primary decisions relating to the child and who the child will live with.

Child Support

Common law spouses are often awarded less spousal support or are given support for a shorter duration than married spouses. The factors that affect entitlement to support and the amount of support are generally the same between married and common law spouses. Your lawyer will best be able to help you determine how much support you can claim.

Property Division

When a couple separates, the assets accumulated during the marriage must be classified as family assets, business assets or individual assets. Family assets must be divided equally between the two partners unless it would be unfair to do so. Often, people require legal representation to identify and divide the family assets, especially if the divorce is contested and or complex.

Marriage Contracts

Common law spouses can obtain the same rights as married spouses by preparing and executing a cohabitation agreement. A cohabitation or marriage agreement is a written document where the parties to the agreement can provide for division of property, support or any other matter upon death or the termination of the relationship.

Litigation

Litigation is a traditional method of resolving Family Law disputes. It provides parties with a decision by a Family Court Judge about custody of children, access/time with and support for their children, spousal support for themselves and their property. Our litigation lawyers can commence a court application for you or defend you when you have been served with court documentation.

Mediation & Arbitration

When a couple separates, the assets accumulated during the marriage must be classified as family assets, business assets or individual assets. Family assets must be divided equally between the two partners unless it would be unfair to do so. Often, people require legal representation to identify and divide the family assets, especially if the divorce or separation is contested and or complex.

Separation Agreements

Common law spouses can obtain the exact same rights as married spouses by preparing and executing a cohabitation / marriage agreement. A cohabitation or marriage agreement is a written document where the parties to the agreement can provide for division of property, support or any other matter upon death or the termination of the relationship.

Spousal Support

Litigation is a traditional method of resolving Family Law disputes. It provides parties with a decision by a Family Court Judge about custody of children, access/time with and support for their children, spousal support for themselves and their property. Our litigation lawyers can commence a court application for you or defend you when you have been served with court documentation.

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