Family Law – Spousal Support in British Columbia

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When a couple is separating, one issue that may need to be addressed is whether one of the people should receive spousal support. Spousal support attempts to meet the needs of a spouse who is financially dependent on the other spouse. A person may apply for spousal support if he or she was married, living together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years or for less than two years but the couple had a child together. The separating couple may resolve the issue of spousal support by agreement or in Court. The agreement or Court Order may require that one spouse pay support in the form of a regular payment or a lump sum amount.

Are You or Your Spouse Entitled to Spousal Support?

Unlike child support when children are involved, spousal support is not something that always results from a relationship breakdown. The person who is seeking spousal support must first be entitled to receive it. Entitlement is based on the objectives of spousal support, which are to:

  • encourage self-sufficiency;
  • address economic advantages or disadvantages arising from the relationship or the separation;
  • reduce any financial hardship arising from the separation; and
  • address any financial inequality resulting from caring for the children of the relationship.

In considering these objectives and whether a person is entitled to spousal support, the Court will look at:

  • who is responsible for child care and whether this impacts that person’s ability to earn income;
  • decisions that the couple made during the relationship that may have limited career opportunities for one of the spouses; and
  • any economic hardship that resulted from the separation.

Amount and Duration

Once the Court determines that the person seeking spousal support is entitled to receive support, it must determine how much spousal support the person will receive and for how long he or she will receive it. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines can help determine the appropriate amount of spousal support. However, the Guidelines are only guidelines and a Court does not have to follow them. The amount and duration of the spousal support will depend on:

  • each spouse’s financial situation;
  • the length of the relationship;
  • the roles that each spouse occupied during the relationship; and
  • whether the spouse seeking spousal support needs any training to become self-sufficient.

Time Limits

A person applying for spousal support under the Family Law Act must do so before two years has passed since either receiving a divorce or, if you were unmarried, since the date of separation.

A person may only apply for spousal support under the Divorce Act if he or she was married. Under the Divorce act, there is no time limit to apply for spousal support.


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