How Is Alimony Determined - Zukerman Law

How Is Alimony Determined

Divorce can be a complex and emotionally charged process, often accompanied by financial uncertainty. In British Columbia, spousal support, also known as alimony, serves as a financial safety net for the lower-earning spouse after separation. However, determining the amount and duration of these payments can be confusing.
This blog post aims to clarify the process of determining alimony payments in BC. Providing a clear and concise overview empowers you with the knowledge to navigate this crucial aspect of the divorce process.
Understanding the factors at play is essential whether you anticipate receiving or paying spousal support. So, let’s explore how alimony payments are determined in British Columbia.

How Is Alimony Determined in BC?

How Is Alimony Determined in BC?

Spousal support, also known as alimony, plays a significant role in ensuring a degree of financial fairness for divorcing couples in British Columbia. The determining spousal support payments in the province involves a structured analysis that considers both the income disparity between the spouses and the duration of the marriage. Here’s a breakdown of the critical factors that influence the calculation of spousal support:

Income Disparity as a Core Consideration

  • Net Disposable Income (NDI): Net Disposable Income (NDI): The primary factor influencing spousal support is the difference in each spouse’s NDI. NDI refers to income remaining after taxes and deductions.
  • Equalization Objective: The goal is to partially bridge the income gap and achieve a measure of financial parity between the former spouses.
  • Formula for Childless Marriages: A formula is applied to marriages without children, considering the length of the marriage and the disparity in the spouses’ gross incomes.
    • The range for spousal support payments typically falls between 1.5% and 2% of the income difference per year of marriage.
    • Marriages exceeding 25 years in duration may see a higher range, from 37.5% to 50% of the income disparity.
  • Increased Complexity with Children: The calculation becomes more intricate when children are involved. Here, individual NDI for each spouse is factored in.
    • The court aims to provide the recipient spouse with 40% to 46% of the combined NDI through a combination of child support and spousal support.

While income disparity is a central element, other factors also influence the determination of spousal support:

  • Marriage Duration: The length of the marriage significantly impacts the spousal support award. Generally, longer marriages lead to more extended alimony periods, reflecting a greater degree of economic interdependence between spouses.
  • Age and Health: Both spouses’ ages and health are considered. If a spouse has health limitations hindering their ability to earn a living, this may influence the alimony amount and duration.
  • Self-Sufficiency Potential: The court will assess the potential for the recipient spouse to achieve self-sufficiency through education, training, or increased employment. Evidence of such potential may impact the duration of alimony.
The Duration of Spousal Support Payments

The Duration of Spousal Support Payments

  • General Guideline: As a rule of thumb, alimony payments typically last between six to twelve months for each year of marriage. For instance, a ten-year marriage could result in alimony payments lasting between five and ten years.
  • Permanent Awards in Specific Cases: In some cases, permanent alimony with no set end date may be awarded. This is more likely for marriages exceeding 20 years or for those exceeding five years where the recipient spouse’s age at separation, combined with the marriage duration, equals 65 or more. In these cases, the rationale behind permanent alimony is the assumption of a deeper level of economic integration between the spouses.

Understanding these factors is crucial for both parties involved in a BC spousal support arrangement. In the following section of this blog, we’ll discuss the importance of consulting with a qualified BC family lawyer to navigate the complexities of determining spousal support payments and ensure a fair outcome in your specific situation.

Spousal Support with and Without Child Support

Spousal Support with and Without Child Support

Determining spousal support in British Columbia involves a two-pronged approach, depending on whether child support is also a factor.

  • Spousal Support Without Child Support: For couples without children, a formula is applied that considers each spouse’s gross income, the marriage length, and the resulting income disparity.
    • The calculation yields a range, with payments typically falling between 1.5% and 2% of the income difference per year of marriage, capped at a maximum of 50% for marriages exceeding 25 years.
    • This method offers a more straightforward approach to estimating potential spousal support payments.
  • Spousal Support with Child Support: The calculation becomes more intricate when children are involved. Here, the concept of “individual net disposable income” (INDI) is introduced. INDI refers to income remaining after taxes and deductions.
    • The calculation aims to ensure that the lower-earning spouse receives 40% to 46% of the combined INDI through a combination of child support and spousal support.
    • This method can be quite complex, particularly regarding the interplay between child support duration (typically ending when the child reaches 18) and the potential adjustment of spousal support payments over time.

Alimony Payment Options in British Columbia

While this blog has focused on calculating spousal support, it’s essential to understand the different payment structures available in British Columbia.

  • Monthly Payments: The most common form of spousal support involves fixed monthly payments from the paying spouse to the receiving spouse. This method offers predictable income for the recipient and ensures a consistent financial contribution from the payer.
  • Lump Sum Payment: In some cases, a lump sum payment may be negotiated as an alternative to ongoing monthly payments. This one-time, larger payment allows the paying spouse to potentially fulfill their spousal support obligation in its entirety upfront. It also eliminates the need for future payments, providing a sense of finality for both parties.

The decision of which payment structure to adopt depends on the case’s specific circumstances, the spouses’ financial situations, and their preferences. Consulting with Zukerman Law can help you navigate these options and determine the most suitable approach for your situation.

Gathering Financial Information for Spousal Support Determination

Gathering Financial Information for Spousal Support Determination

An accurate assessment of income disparity is a cornerstone of calculating spousal support in British Columbia. A comprehensive exchange of financial documents between spouses is crucial to achieve this. Here’s a breakdown of the essential documents typically required:

  • Tax Returns or T1 Generals: These documents provide a detailed overview of your annual income, deductions, and tax credits, offering a clear picture of your financial situation.
  • Notice of Assessments: Issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), these notices confirm the taxes owing or refunded based on your tax return.
  • T2 Corporate Tax Returns (if applicable): If you or your former spouse control or hold shares in a corporation, their corporate tax returns provide insights into the corporation’s financial health and potential income distribution to shareholders.
  • Interest and Rental Income Statements: Any income generated from investments or rental properties needs to be documented. These statements detail the amount of such income received.
  • Latest Pay Stubs: Recent pay stubs offer a snapshot of your current earnings, including gross pay, deductions, and net income.

By gathering and exchanging this information transparently, both spouses can contribute to a fair and accurate determination of spousal support, ensuring a smoother and more efficient legal process.


As you can see, determining alimony payments in British Columbia involves a multi-faceted approach that considers income disparity, marriage duration, and the presence of children. Understanding these factors empowers you to participate more effectively in the process. However, spousal support calculations can become intricate, particularly when child support is involved.
At Zukerman Law, our compassionate and highly experienced family lawyers understand the emotional and financial challenges associated with spousal support. We are dedicated to providing personalized and strategic legal counsel throughout the entire process, including navigating alimony calculations and negotiations. Contact Zukerman Law today to schedule a consultation and discuss your specific situation.


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.