Who Is Entitled To Alimony - Zukerman Law

Everything You Need to Know About Alimony in BC

Divorce can be a complex and emotionally charged experience, and sorting out finances can be one of the most stressful aspects. One of the key questions many people have is: am I entitled to alimony (also known as spousal support) in British Columbia?
This guide will break down everything you need to know about alimony in BC. We’ll explore:

  • Who qualifies for alimony?
  • What factors are considered when determining alimony payments?
  • How much alimony will you receive (or pay)?
  • How long will alimony payments last?

Get the facts and navigate your financial future with confidence!

Who is entitled to alimony?

Who is entitled to alimony?

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is not automatically awarded in a British Columbia divorce. However, eligibility can be established by meeting specific criteria outlined in the province’s family law statutes.

Here’s a breakdown of the primary factors determining eligibility:

  • Marital Status: The most direct path to spousal support eligibility is through a formal marriage that has since undergone legal separation or divorce.
  • Common-Law Relationships: Couples who cohabitated in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years may also be eligible for spousal support, provided they meet other requirements.
  • Shorter Common-Law Relationships with Children: In cases where a common-law partnership lasted less than two years, but the couple has a child together, the partner seeking spousal support may still qualify.

It’s important to note that fulfilling one of these criteria does not guarantee an award of spousal support. Ultimately, the court will consider various factors specific to each case to determine the appropriateness and amount of spousal support, if any.

How is alimony determined in BC?

How is alimony determined in BC?

While eligibility for spousal support (alimony) is assessed based on specific criteria, the actual amount and duration can vary depending on individual circumstances. Here’s a breakdown of the key factors involved:

Negotiation vs. Court Order

  • Ideally, spouses can reach a mutually agreeable arrangement regarding spousal support through negotiation. This allows for a degree of flexibility and control over the terms.
  • However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the court will make a determination based on the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (the Guidelines).

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines

The Guidelines provide a framework for calculating a reasonable range for spousal support payments. They consider various factors, including:

  • Income Disparity: The earning capacity of both spouses, including their current income and potential future earning potential.
  • Length of Marriage: The duration of the marriage plays a role, with longer marriages generally leading to a higher likelihood of spousal support.
  • Number of Children: Children’s presence and their needs may influence the amount and duration of spousal support.
  • Spousal Roles: The traditional roles each spouse played within the marriage (e.g., homemaker vs. primary earner) may be considered.

Beyond the Guidelines

While the Guidelines offer a starting point, the court delves deeper into the specific circumstances of each case. Additional factors may be taken into account, such as:

  • Financial Situations: The overall financial picture of both spouses, including assets and debts.
  • Self-Sufficiency: The ability of the spouse seeking support to become financially independent, potentially requiring additional education or training.

Based on the combined evaluation of these factors, the court may determine:

  • No Spousal Support: No award may be granted if the circumstances suggest both spouses can maintain financial independence.
  • Lump Sum Payment: In some cases, a one-time lump sum payment might be deemed appropriate.
  • Regular Payments: This is the most common scenario, with payments spread out over a set period or indefinitely.

It’s important to note that the court’s primary concern is financial need and fairness, not the emotional aspects of the marriage breakdown. Factors like infidelity or who initiated the separation are not considered in determining alimony.

What factors are considered when determining alimony payments?

Negotiating spousal support (alimony) is ideal. However, if an agreement isn’t reached, the court relies on the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. These guidelines consider several factors to determine a fair payment amount and duration, including:

  • Income: The current and future earning potential of both spouses.
  • Marriage Length: Longer marriages may increase the likelihood and amount of spousal support.
  • Children: The presence of children and their needs can influence the calculations.
  • Marital Roles: The traditional roles each spouse played (e.g., homemaker vs. primary earner) may be factored in.
How much alimony will you receive or pay?

How much alimony will you receive (or pay)?

There’s no single formula to determine the exact amount of alimony (spousal support) you’ll receive or pay in British Columbia. However, this section can equip you with the knowledge to navigate this aspect of your divorce.

Here’s a breakdown of the key points:

  • Eligibility Comes First: Before calculating alimony, it’s crucial to establish your eligibility based on the criteria discussed earlier in this blog.
  • Negotiation or Court Decision: Reaching a mutual agreement with your spouse regarding the amount and duration of alimony is ideal.
  • Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG): If an agreement proves elusive, the court utilizes the SSAG to establish a fair range for spousal support. This framework considers factors like:
    • Income Disparity: The earning capacity of both spouses, including current income and potential future earning potential.
    • Length of Marriage: The duration of the marriage can influence the amount and duration of alimony.
    • Number of Children: The presence of children and their needs may be factored into the calculations.
    • Marital Roles: Each spouse’s traditional roles in the marriage (e.g., homemaker vs. primary earner) may be considered.
How long will alimony payments last?

How long will alimony payments last?

Alimony (spousal support) typically lasts for a set time, often based on your relationship length. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Standard Duration: Expect 6 months to 1 year of alimony per year you were together (e.g., 15 years together = 7.5-15 years of payments).
  • Long Marriages & Age: For very long marriages, especially when separating later in life, the alimony end date might be left open and decided later (e.g., after retirement).
  • Individual Circumstances: Your specific situation matters. Factors like financial situations, the presence of children, and your pre-divorce lifestyle can all influence the final duration.
Get Professional Advice

Get Professional Advice

Given the complexities involved in spousal support calculations and negotiations, consulting with a BC family lawyer is highly recommended. Zukerman Law’s team can provide personalized guidance throughout the process, ensuring a fair outcome that reflects your unique circumstances. We can help you navigate the SSAG and advocate for your rights.
Schedule a consultation with Zukerman Law to discuss your situation and get the legal support you deserve.

author

Stuart Zukerman

Stuart Zukerman, a graduate of the University of British Columbia, has over 32 years of experience in litigation with a focus on Family Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Dismissal claims, and Collaborative Divorce & Mediation. He has extensive trial experience in divorce, child custody, spousal support, asset division, and ICBC injury claims. As an accredited Family Law Mediator, he helps resolve disputes without court intervention. Stuart has also authored papers on family law and lectured at CLE courses.