Understanding how spousal support is calculated in Alberta is crucial for anyone going through a separation or divorce. Spousal support, often referred to as alimony or maintenance, is a payment made by one spouse to the other following a separation to ensure a fair economic outcome.
The process of calculating this support involves a range of factors and legal guidelines. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of how spousal support is determined in Alberta.
Legal Framework for Spousal Support in Alberta
Spousal support in Alberta is governed by both federal and provincial laws. The Divorce Act applies to married couples who are seeking a divorce, while the Family Law Act applies to both married and unmarried couples who are separating. The guidelines set out in these laws provide the foundation for spousal support calculations.
Factors Influencing Spousal Support
The calculation of spousal support in Alberta takes into account several factors, including:
- Duration of the Relationship: Longer relationships may result in longer periods of spousal support.
- Roles During the Relationship: Consideration is given to the roles each spouse played, especially if one spouse sacrificed career opportunities for the relationship or for raising children.
- Income and Earning Capacity: The income and potential earning capacity of each spouse are key factors. This includes current income, ability to earn income, and any impact the relationship had on the spouse’s earning capacity.
- Age and Health: The age and health of both spouses can affect the duration and amount of support, especially in long-term relationships.
- Standard of Living During the Marriage: The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage is often considered to ensure a similar standard post-separation.
- Child Care Responsibilities: If one spouse is primarily responsible for child care, this may impact their earning capacity and need for support.
- Financial Needs and Responsibilities: The financial needs and obligations of both spouses are taken into account.
Calculating Spousal Support: The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAGs)
While the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAGs) are not law, they are widely used in Canada, including Alberta, to provide a framework for calculating spousal support. The SSAGs offer two formulas for calculating support: the ‘without child support’ formula and the ‘with child support’ formula.
- Without Child Support Formula: Used when there are no children involved. It considers the gross incomes of both spouses and the length of the marriage/cohabitation. Support is generally 1.5% to 2% of the difference in gross incomes for each year of marriage/cohabitation, up to a maximum of 50%.
- With Child Support Formula: This formula is more complex as it accounts for child support payments. It considers the net disposable income of each spouse (income after taxes and child support) and aims to allocate family income fairly between households.
Case-by-Case Basis and Judicial Discretion
Each spousal support case is unique, and while the guidelines provide a framework, judges have discretion in their decisions. They consider the specific circumstances of each case, and the guidelines are used as a starting point.
Examples of Spousal Support Calculations
To illustrate how spousal support might be calculated, consider these hypothetical scenarios:
- Long-term marriage with children, where one spouse has a significantly higher income:
- The ‘with child support’ formula would be used. Child support is calculated first, followed by spousal support, ensuring a fair distribution of income that maintains living standards in both households.
- Short-term marriage without children, where incomes are relatively similar:
- The ‘without child support’ formula would apply. Given the short duration and similar incomes, spousal support may be minimal or non-existent.
Review and Modification of Spousal Support
Spousal support is not set in stone. It can be reviewed and modified if there are significant changes in circumstances, such as a change in income, remarriage, or changes in the needs of the parties involved.
Contact Shim Law Today
Calculating spousal support in Alberta involves a complex interplay of legal guidelines, individual circumstances, and judicial discretion. Understanding these factors is key to anticipating the outcome of a spousal support arrangement.
For personalized advice and calculations, it’s advisable to consult with a family law attorney experienced in Alberta’s legal framework.
Don’t navigate the complexities of spousal support alone. Allow Shim Law to guide you towards a fair and equitable resolution. Contact us today at 403-476-2011 or book a consultation online to learn more.