Q: My husband and I have been married for 15 years. For the past 5 years my husband has been at home taking care of our 7 year old son while I advanced my career. Upon our separation, what obligations might I have in the way of spousal support?
Whether or not a person may be obligated to pay spousal support upon separation is a common concern, particularly among those who have one spouse who stays at home to care for the children or those who have a significant income disparity between the two parties. The question as to whether or not you will be obligated to pay is a complicated one that depends on many factors.
There are two objectives to spousal support in Ontario: the first is compensation and the second is need. A compensatory claim is often made where one spouse needs to be “compensated” for their role in the marriage. For example, one spouse may feel they should be compensated for sacrificing their career and staying home to raise the children for the furtherance of the other spouse’s career. In a needs based claim, the spouse claiming entitlement to spousal support is seeking relief from the financial need which a spouse experiences after the breakdown of a relationship. In addition to these objectives, the Divorce Act sets out a number of factors that need to be considered in establishing a claim for spousal support. The answer to whether or not you would be obligated to pay spousal support is not straightforward and hinges on specific details of your relationship, income and roles taken in the marriage. In addition, spousal support can be ordered for varying lengths of time depending on the age of the parties, length of marriage, education level and whether retraining is required to enter the job market among other considerations.
A family law lawyer would be able to advise you more precisely on what your obligations may be upon separation from your spouse and provide value in assisting you through the process to ensure you achieve the best outcome possible.