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Does Child Support Affect Spousal Support?

October 5, 2020

Child support and spousal support are financial obligations that outlast the term of a marriage or common-law union. In divorces or separations that include children, child and spousal support are inextricably linked.

What is Spousal Support?

Spousal support or alimony is money paid by one spouse to another after a divorce or separation, per an agreement or court order. It is usually paid monthly, but can also be paid as a lump sum. The Canadian Divorce Act states that the purpose of spousal support is to meet one or more of the following objectives:

  1. To recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the marriage or its breakdown
  2. To apportion between the spouses any financial consequences arising from the care of any child of the marriage over and above any obligation for the support of any child of the marriage
  3. To relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the marriage and,
  4. To promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period.

Who is eligible for spousal support?

Divorcees, legally married individuals who separate but are not seeking a divorce, and those who were in a common-law relationship may apply for spousal support. However, not all spouses who apply will receive spousal support. Whether spousal support is granted will depend on several factors, including:

  • Whether there are children in the marriage
  • The financial means and needs of both spouses
  • The ability of the other spouse to pay
  • The length of the marriage
  • Any order, agreement or arrangement relating to support of either spouse.

Once you are eligible for spousal support, the courts usually refer to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines to determine your payment amount and duration. The Guidelines calculate a range of support that should be paid based on both spouses’ incomes. Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are not entrenched in law.

What is child support?

Child support is money paid to a custodial spouse for the care and maintenance of the children of a marriage or common-law union after a divorce or separation. Payments cover minors, children in post-secondary education and those with a disability.

Federal Child Support Guidelines determine child support payments in divorce cases. They are entrenched in law. Territorial and provincial guidelines apply when married couples separate but do not divorce or when parents were never married to each other.

How does child support affect spousal support?

Due to the way spousal support is calculated, it is always affected by child support. Child support is calculated and awarded first. Federal law mandates that in the application for both child and spousal support, child support takes precedence.

Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are used in the child support formula to calculate spousal support. The child support formula is a suite of formulas adjusted for different parenting arrangements. They are based on the Individual Net Disposable Income (INDI) for both parties.

In the basic formula:

The payer’s INDI is = Guideline’s income amount – the amount paid for child support – taxes and deductions.

The recipient’s INDI is = Guideline’s income amount – amount for child support – taxes and deductions + government benefits and credits.

Both INDIs are added, and spousal support is manipulated until the lower-income spouse achieves between 40 and 46 percent of the total INDI.

The result is that the ability of the paying spouse to pay spousal support diminishes, especially in low-income households. In instances where there are not enough funds to cover both child support and spousal support payments, spousal support payments could be suspended until there is no longer the need to make child support payments or the spouse’s financial situation changes.

Duration of Spousal Support

How long a spouse will continue to receive payment is also covered in the formula and is impacted by the length of the marriage, the age of the recipient and the emancipation of the youngest child of the marriage or the presence of a child with a disability. In most cases, once there are dependent children, the courts will order indefinite spousal support subject to periodic review.

Further to the request for a modification, a spouse’s support may be increased once there is no longer the need to make child support payments.

Do you need help to settle your child and spousal support matters?

The calculation of spousal support and child support is complex, heavily nuanced and is best left to legal professionals.

If you need help to settle your child and spousal support matters, contact us at Baker and Baker Family Law. Our team of experienced child and spousal support lawyers are versed in matters such as determining spouse eligibility and calculating child and spousal support payments. With 58 years’ combined experience in family law, we can have your matter successfully settled in the least possible time.

Book a free consultation today to discuss your case.

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