What to Know about Spousal Support in British Columbia

divorcing couple

After a divorce, one spouse typically pays spousal maintenance to the other. Spousal support, unlike child support, is not an automatic right; you must either agree with your ex or seek a court order. It usually involves eligibility, limitation periods, and British Columbia (BC) spousal support entitlement. Read on to learn more.

The Eligibility

Before considering BC spousal support, determine your eligibility. BC spousal support is available if and only if you have a child despite being married, in a marriage-like relationship (also known as a “common-law relationship”), or if you and your partner have been together for less than two years and share a child.

Do court-ordered spousal support applications have deadlines?

The Family Law Act applies to both married couples and couples who have been in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years or have had a child together. The Divorce Act applies only to married couples. It is critical to follow applicable statutes of limitation when seeking a court order for spousal support. 

The statute of limitations varies depending on whether you file under the Family Law Act or the Divorce Act.  Under the Family Law Act of British Columbia, you must apply for spousal support within two years of a divorce or annulment. Meanwhile, common-law couples must file for spousal support within two years of their divorce.

There is no time limit if you are married and file for spousal support under the federal Divorce Act. That being said, the court may dismiss a claim based on delay, so our BC family lawyers recommend pursuing spousal support as soon as possible.

Who is eligible for spousal support in British Columbia?

Three factors influence spousal support:

  1. Compensatory: To compensate a spouse for hardships or missed opportunities as a result of the marriage or divorce. For example, if one spouse stayed at home to raise children while the other pursued a career. This is to give way to restoring a spouse’s pre-marriage status.
  1. Contractual: This is based on a written or verbal spousal support agreement (a Marriage Contract or Separation Agreement), or based on a statute or court order.
  1. Non-compensatory or “needs-based”: This is to provide assistance to a spouse in financial need when the other spouse is able to pay.

Certain goals must be considered by contract parties or the court when determining spousal support. Section 161 of the Family Law Act of British Columbia and section 15.2(6) of the Divorce Act outline the purposes for determining spousal support.

The importance of the Divorce Act is to: 

  • Acknowledge any financial benefits or drawbacks from the marriage or its dissolution
  • Divide any financial consequences arising from the care of their child (or children) between spouses, in addition to the obligation to provide support
  • Alleviate the financial hardship caused by the marriage’s dissolution, and to encourage each spouse’s economic independence as soon as possible

Adultery and abuse have no bearing on spousal support eligibility. In British Columbia, the court may take into account behaviour that arbitrarily or unreasonably causes, prolongs, or exacerbates the need for spousal support or has an impact on the ability to provide support.

The Amount of Money Involved in Spousal Support

Following the determination of a spouse’s right to spousal support, the amount and duration of support must be determined. With a BC family lawyer, either spouse may seek a follow-up discussion on spousal support, including the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines and determining factors. Your family lawyer should also discuss whether spousal support terminates upon remarriage.

Conclusion

Indeed, the universal rules governing spousal support can be perplexing. In British Columbia, eligibility for spousal support is determined by the relationship and circumstances. Fortunately, you can seek a family lawyer in British Columbia who can help you determine whether you are eligible for spousal support.

If you have questions about spousal support, Dreyer Davison Lawyers LLP is the right team to give you answers and favourable solutions. Work with us today!

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