When Do You Stop Paying Alimony? - Zukerman Law

The Termination of Spousal Support in BC: What You Need to Know

Spousal support (alimony) is a financial arrangement established during a divorce in British Columbia. While it can provide necessary stability after separation, there may come a time when payments are no longer required. This blog post will explore the circumstances that can lead to the termination of spousal support in BC. We will address:

  • The Various Grounds for Termination: This includes factors like the recipient spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation in a new relationship, as well as changes in financial circumstances.
  • The Legal Process for Modification or Termination: We will outline the steps involved in formally requesting a change or termination of spousal support payments through the court system.
  • The Importance of Legal Counsel: Seeking guidance from a BC family lawyer can protect your rights and interests throughout the termination process.

Understanding these considerations can be crucial for both payers and recipients of spousal support in British Columbia.

When Do You Stop Paying Alimony in BC?

When Do You Stop Paying Alimony in BC?

While spousal support offers financial support after separation, there are circumstances where payments can end in British Columbia. Here’s a breakdown of the key factors:

  • Retirement and Reduced Earning Capacity: Reaching retirement age (typically over 65) and demonstrating an inability to work due to age-related limitations can be grounds for termination, especially if your income significantly decreases.
  • Material Change in Circumstances: A substantial, unforeseen change in your financial situation, such as a disability or job loss that significantly reduces your income, can also be a factor for the court to consider when reviewing alimony payments.
  • Reaching the End of the Support Term: The duration of alimony is often linked to the length of the marriage. For marriages under 20 years, payments typically range from 6 to 12 months for each year of marriage. However, marriages lasting over 20 years or meeting specific age criteria may result in the awarding of permanent alimony with no end date.

Proving a “Material Change”

The BC Family Law Act and general law establish that simply stopping work or retiring early doesn’t automatically terminate spousal support. Here are some scenarios that won’t qualify:

  • Early and Intentional Retirement: If you choose to retire before a typical retirement age without a justifiable reason, the court may view this unfavorably and continue the alimony obligation.
  • Voluntary Job Changes: Leaving your job voluntarily, becoming unemployed by choice, or underemployment due to a lack of effort won’t absolve you of alimony payments. This also applies to situations where you quit a job but fail to seek new employment actively.

The key lies in demonstrating a material change in circumstances. This refers to an unforeseen and significant event beyond your control that genuinely hinders your ability to maintain your previous income level and fulfill your spousal support obligations.

How to Terminate Spousal Support After It Has Been Ordered in BC

How to Terminate Spousal Support After It Has Been Ordered in BC

Successfully terminating an existing spousal support order in British Columbia requires a strategic approach. Here’s a breakdown of the process depending on whether you’re dealing with an interim or final order:

Terminating Interim Spousal Support

  • Interim Orders: These temporary support payments are established before the final trial. They may not reflect the full picture of your financial situation.
  • Challenging the Basis for Support: You can argue that your spouse was never entitled to support due to a lack of financial disadvantage from the marriage.
  • Changes in Circumstances: Demonstrate significant changes in your financial situation or your spouse’s earning capacity since the interim order was issued. This could include income reductions, job changes for your spouse, or a substantial property division in their favor at trial.
  • Competing Financial Obligations: Highlight the burden of child support, extraordinary expenses, and existing debt that make it impossible to maintain spousal support payments.

Terminating Final Spousal Support Orders in BC

Terminating a final spousal support order, established after a formal trial, presents a higher hurdle than interim orders. However, there are still possibilities:

  • Significant Life Changes: Demonstrate a material change in your circumstances that significantly impacts your ability to maintain the original support amount. This could include:
    • Retirement: Reaching a bona fide retirement age and demonstrating a genuine inability to continue working due to age limitations.
    • Disability: A medical condition that permanently reduces your earning capacity.
    • Self-Sufficiency: Evidence that your former spouse has achieved financial self-sufficiency through employment, education, or inheritance, eliminating their need for ongoing support.
  • Remarriage or Re-cohabitation:
    • Your Spouse’s Remarriage: If your spouse remarries to a partner with a significantly higher income who can provide for their needs, you may be able to terminate support (depending on the original order’s basis). However, if the new partner’s income doesn’t fully replace your support, a reduction might be possible.
    • Your Remarriage: Generally, remarriage doesn’t automatically terminate spousal support. The court may consider the additional financial obligations of your new relationship. However, it typically won’t absolve you of your existing commitments.
Conclusion: Navigating the Termination of Spousal Support in BC

Conclusion: Navigating the Termination of Spousal Support in BC

The complexities surrounding alimony termination in British Columbia highlight the importance of seeking legal guidance. An experienced BC family lawyer can:

  • Evaluate Your Case: They can analyze your specific situation, including the type of spousal support order (interim or final), changes in your financial circumstances, and your former spouse’s situation.
  • Develop a Compelling Strategy: Based on your unique circumstances, your lawyer can craft a strategy to present a strong case for modifying or terminating your spousal support obligations.
  • Represent You in Court: If necessary, your lawyer will skillfully represent you in court, ensuring your rights are protected throughout the legal process.

Working with a knowledgeable family lawyer can increase your chances of a successful termination of spousal support in BC.

Zukerman Law: Your Trusted Partner in BC Family Law

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 termination. Contact Zukerman Law today to schedule a consultation and discuss your situation. We are here to guide you towards a secure and confident future.


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.