Spousal Support in British Columbia
Spousal support in BC is defined as financial support to assist with living expenses that is paid to a former spouse under an agreement or court order. Spouses can apply for spousal support in BC if they:
- Were married
- Lived together as common law for at least two years, or
- Lived together as common law for less than two years and have a child together
There are two laws in BC that handle spousal support: the Family Law Act (a provincial law) and the Divorce Act (a federal law).
When could spousal support in BC be paid?
Under provincial and federal laws, spousal support is intended to:
- Consider all financial advantages and disadvantages one spouse can be faced with due to a separation or divorce
- Ensure that spouses do not face economic hardship due to a relationship breakdown
- Ensure both spouses share the financial responsibility of any consequences to caring for children during the marriage or common law relationship
- Help spouses be financially independent in a timely manner
How do I figure out the amount of support to be paid?
There are many factors to be considered when determining the amount of spousal support to be paid. To determine how much spousal support should be paid and for how long will depend on the following:
- How long the couple lived together
- If the parties worked outside the home during the marriage or common law relationship
- If the parties are able to support themselves
- If one spouse was at home with the children
- Whether one spouse earned significantly less than the other spouse
- If the spouse that is intended to pay is able to make payments
The Support Advisory Guidelines can help spouses figure out the amount of spousal support that should be paid. The guidelines take into account the income of both spouses, length of the marriage, and whether children are involved.
MySupportCalculator.ca is a website with a support calculator and can provide an estimated dollar amount that can be adjusted based on specific circumstances.
How to apply for spousal support in BC
If spouses cannot come to an agreement and both spouses want to avoid the court system, the first and best option is to mediate with a third party to reach a fair agreement. The alternative is to apply to the court system for a spousal support order.
Court applications for spousal support in BC can be expensive and time consuming. Therefore, coming to an agreement on spousal prior to the court application is wise.
How long is spousal support intended to last?
Spousal support agreements or orders can often be dependent on the relationship length. However, the law in BC expects each party to be able to support themselves as soon as reasonably possible after the dissolution of a marriage.
An agreement can state that spousal support will be reviewed at a certain time. This is important as parties' circumstances can often change over time.
Is there a time limit to apply for spousal support in BC?
If applying under the BC Family Law Act, apply for spousal support no later than two years after the order for divorce.
For common law parties living together for at least two years or common law for less than two years but have a child together, apply within two years of the date of separation.
There is no time limit under the Federal Divorce Act.
Can I enforce the spousal support agreement in BC?
Once an agreement is received for spousal support, parties can enroll in the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP). FMEP is a government program that can monitor payments and can take action to assist in receiving spousal support payments.