The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines - Zukerman Law

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines

Navigating spousal support can be a complex and emotionally charged aspect of family law. Whether you’re going through a divorce or separation, understanding your rights and obligations regarding spousal support is crucial. In Canada, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) play a pivotal role in providing clarity and structure to the determination of spousal support payments.
Developed to bring consistency and fairness to spousal support decisions, the SSAG offers valuable insights into how courts and legal professionals assess and calculate support amounts. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the key aspects of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, exploring what they are, how they work, and why they matter in family law.

Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines Introduction

Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines Introduction

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, published by the federal Department of Justice in 2008, is an academic paper used by lawyers, mediators, arbitrators, and judges to determine the appropriate amount and duration of spousal support for spouses. It is not a law and is not expected to become a law.
In 2001, the federal Department of Justice formed an advisory working group to develop uniform guidelines for spousal support calculation, similar to the Child Support Guidelines. The group, led by Professors Carol Rogerson and Rollie Thompson, comprised judges, family law lawyers, law school faculty, and social workers, with strong backgrounds in family law.
In 2005, Professors Rogerson and Thompson published their first paper, Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines: A Draft Proposal. After touring the country and monitoring case law, they released their final paper, Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, in 2008. This was supplemented by other materials, including the Revised User’s Guide, published in 2016.

The Advisory Guidelines in a Nutshell

The Advisory Guidelines in a Nutshell

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines aim to standardize future spousal support decisions based on past court decisions, rather than altering the law. The guidelines use mathematical formulas to determine the appropriate amount and duration of support, aiming to normalize future decisions based on the majority of past court decisions on the subject.

Division of Income

The basic concept underlying the Advisory Guidelines is that rather than considering each party’s needs and means independently, the amount of spousal support should be calculated by taking into account both parties’ total disposable income. The formulas work with the total amount of money collectively available to a couple.
Income sharing does not mean an equal division of income. The Advisory Guidelines provide a range for spousal support while child support is being paid, which is between 40% and 46% of the total disposable income accessible to both parties. The Advisory Guidelines give the recipient a share of the income gap between the recipient and the payor in cases where child support is not paid; this share rises with the length of the relationship.

Entitlement to Support

The question whether a spouse is eligible for support is not covered by the Advisory Guidelines. Of course, the first thing to determine when processing a spousal support application is entitlement. The Advisory Guidelines will only be used when a spouse is found to be entitled to spousal support.

Support Amount

The length of a relationship determines the amount of child support payable and the duration for which it must be paid. If no child support is paid, the amount of spousal support is determined by the parties’ gross incomes.
Where child support is paid, the amount of support payable will be calculated based on the payment of child support and the different tax rules relating to spousal support and child support. The parties’ net incomes are used to determine spousal support.

Upper and Lower Income Limits

The Advisory Guidelines outline floors and ceilings for spousal support. where a payor’s income is below $20,000, no spousal support will be payable; and, where a payor’s income exceeds $350,000, the payor should usually pay at the amount for incomes of $350,000.

Support Duration

The Advisory Guidelines often specify the years for which support will be provided. Support will be paid for an unspecified period of time in specific cases, such as long-term relationships, older dependent spouses, or when child support is paid.
The duration of support payment depends on the duration of the relationship, the recipient’s age, and the age of the youngest child.

The Spousal Support Formulas

The Spousal Support Formulas

The Advisory Guidelines outline two formulas: the Without Child Support formula, used when child support is not being paid, and the With Child Support formula, used when there is a legal obligation to pay child support, regardless of whether child support is actually being paid or not.
The “With Child Support Formula” is used when someone gets both spousal and child support. There are different versions of this formula depending on the situation:

  • Shared custody: When parenting time is split close to equally.
  • Split custody: When children live primarily with one parent each.
  • Supporter pays spousal support: When the person paying child support also needs to pay spousal support.
  • Adult children: When child support is for adult children (over 19 in British Columbia).

With Child Support Formula

The With Child Support Formula is a detailed method for calculating child support payments. It involves deducting child support from the payor’s gross income and adjusting the recipient’s income by accounting for taxes, deductions, and adding government benefits.
Child support is deducted from the recipient’s income to reflect the costs of raising children. The support amount is typically 40 to 46 percent of the payor’s net disposable income plus the recipient’s net disposable income, which is calculated based on specific income adjustments for each party.

Duration: The duration of support for a couple depends on the length of time they have been together for. Support will be paid for an unlimited, undefined period of time if a couple has been together for more than 20 years or if the dependent party’s age plus the number of years of the relationship equals 65.

The low-range formulas for duration are:

  • 0.5 years for each year of the relationship
  • the length of time remaining until the youngest child starts full-time school

The high-range formulas for duration are:

  • 1 year for each year of the relationship
  • the length of time remaining until the youngest child finishes full-time school

Without Child Support Formula

The Without Child Support Formula provides 1.5-2 percent of the difference between spouses’ gross incomes for each year of marriage.
Duration: For every year that the partnership lasts, 0.5 to 1 year of support will be paid. Support will be provided indefinitely, for no specific amount of time, if a couple has been together for more than 20 years or if the dependent party’s age plus the number of years in the partnership equals 65.
The highest amount that can be paid under the Without Child Support Formula is equal to the difference between the couples’ gross incomes plus 37.5 percent, or 50% of the parties’ net incomes—that is, their incomes after benefits and taxes have been deducted.
The maximum time spousal support can be payable under this formula ranges from an amount of time equal to the duration of the spouses’ cohabiting relationship to an indefinite amount of time.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) serve as a fundamental resource in the realm of family law, offering clarity and consistency in the determination of spousal support obligations. For anyone facing spousal support issues, understanding the SSAG is essential. These guidelines not only assist in calculating support amounts but also contribute to informed decision-making during divorce or separation proceedings.
By consulting with experienced family law professionals like Zukerman Law Group, individuals can navigate the complexities of spousal support with confidence.
For more information or to set up an INITIAL CONSULTATION, contact us at 604-575-5464 or contact us.

FAQs

Does a husband have to support his wife during separation in Canada?

In Canada, a husband (or wife) doesn’t automatically owe spousal support during separation. However, the spouse with a lower income may be entitled to financial help based on factors like length of marriage, childcare needs, and income disparity.

Who gets the house in a divorce in Canada?

The general rule is that the net value of the family property (the value of the property owned by the spouses minus any debts and excluded property) should be equally divided between both spouses in a divorce.

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.