3 Things You Need to Know About Getting Spousal Support in Alberta

Posted on: 27 April 2016

If you are getting divorced in Alberta, you might be considering including a request for spousal support in your initial court filings. Spousal support, also known as alimony, can be requested by both men and women. However, its original purpose was to support women who did not work during a marriage, so they could have an income after a divorce. While it is not as common for a judge to order spousal support today as it was in the past, due to new expectations of adults of both genders being able to support themselves, it can still sometimes be obtained.

If you are divorcing and seeking spousal support in Alberta, here are three important things you need to know.

1. There Is a Spousal Support Enforcement Agency

Alberta has a special agency just for enforcing spousal support and child support orders. It is called the Alberta Maintenance Enforcement Program. If someone who has been ordered to pay spousal or child support and is in default, this agency will take the legal steps necessary to make sure they start paying again. The agency does this on behalf of those who are owed the money, and it is a free service to them, provided by the government of the province.

Some of the actions the agency can take to make sure people are meeting their spousal support obligations include putting liens on their personal property, wage garnishments, denying the debtor the use of their passport, suspending their driver's licenses, and more. The agency has databases that allow them to locate missing debtors and to identify any assets they may be hiding.

2. The Courts Use Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines

There are no specific laws in Canada that mandate how spousal support is awarded. There aren't even any laws governing whether it is awarded at all. Instead, the courts in Canada, including the ones in Alberta, use a set of spousal support advisory guidelines. These are essentially suggestions for how spousal support should be awarded. Most courts seem to like the guidelines and follow them. However, they are not required to follow them, and some courts deviate from them in certain divorce court filings.

The courts are not bound to the guidelines, because every divorce case is different. The suggestive nature of the guidelines gives judges the ability to use their objectivity and unique knowledge of the divorcing couple to make an award based on what they think is most fair. However, do not be surprised if your judge follows the guidelines. The vast majority do.

3. Indefinite Spousal Support Is Going the Way of the Dinosaurs

There was a time when courts commonly awarded women indefinite spousal support. This meant an ex-husband had to pay until the ex-wife re-married, or could prove to the court that they were making enough money to support themselves. This rarely happens anymore.

According to CBC News Calgary, courts now take the age and health of the spouse into consideration when awarding spousal support. Regardless of the length of the marriage, how long the requesting spouse went without working, or how little job training he or she has, courts are unlikely to award indefinite support. Spouses who request support and who are young and healthy are expected to become self-sufficient within a reasonable number of years after the divorce. If they are not, their ex-spouse may still be relieved of his or her payment obligation.

While you can still get spousal support in Alberta, don't expect to get it indefinitely. Also, know that your divorce may be handled differently than others when it comes to spousal support, due to the discretion of the judge. Talk to your lawyer before going to court. This way, you will be sure to know what you are likely to get in terms of spousal support when you go before the judge. For more information, consult resource like Select Document Services Inc Toronto.