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Dispelling myths about spousal support

Spousal support is a legal issue that people might hear about from friends or tabloids. This second-hand or anecdotal evidence can make it easy to pass on misinformation, which can wind up causing confusion and conflict if you face this issue yourself.

Below, we dispel some common spousal support myths that can spur misguided decisions.

Myth: My ex is to blame for the split, so they should be the one to pay

Some people speak about spousal support obligations in terms of a reward or punishment; others feel like infidelity, or other reasons leading to a split should dictate who (if anyone) pays support.

However, being to blame for the breakup is typically not going to affect whether you or your partner is entitled to support. Generally speaking, the factors that determine eligibility for support involve:

  • Financial resources of both parties
  • Marital roles and contributions
  • Economic consequences of the split up
  • Legal agreements that addressed spousal support

Being a bad partner or making some poor choices during a marriage is typically irrelevant in this matter.

Myth: I can’t seek spousal support because we weren’t married

The term “spousal support” can be misleading because the word “spouse” is right there. However, parties can be eligible to pursue this type of support if they were:

  • Married
  • Living with their partner for at least three years
  • In a relationship of some permanence and have a child together

In other words, you need not be married to seek support.

That said, whether you were married or not, you will need to establish that you have a need for support and your ex can pay it or that you decided the matter in a legal agreement.

Myth: Calculating support is entirely subjective

Spousal support orders can be different for everyone, but that does not mean they are entirely subjective. 

The spousal support advisory guidelines (SSAGs) create a framework for calculating support. They consider factors like whether you have children and the length of your marriage to arrive at an estimated amount and duration. But numerous exceptions and special circumstances can increase or decrease this amount through negotiation and failing negotiation – by the court.

Rather than let these and other myths lead you astray during a separation or divorce, you can familiarize yourself with Ontario spousal support laws and guidelines to make informed decisions.

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