How is Spousal Support Determined in BC?



Spousal support is an amount of money one spouse has a duty to pay to the other spouse. In addition to whether a party receives spousal support at all, other considerations include what the amount of the spousal support should be and how it will be paid.

Are you entitled to spousal support?

A spouse is entitled to spousal support where the parties agree or the court determines one spouse is entitled to spousal support.

The court must consider the following objectives when determining whether a spouse is entitled to spousal support:

(a)to recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the relationship between the spouses or the breakdown of that relationship;

(b)to apportion between the spouses any financial consequences arising from the care of their child, beyond the duty to provide support for the child;

(c)to relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the relationship between the spouses;

(d)as far as practicable, to promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time.

How is the amount and duration of spousal support calculated?

Once it is determined a spouse is entitled to spousal support, the amount and duration of the spousal support must then be determined. The court will consider the conditions, means, needs, and other circumstances of each spouse. This includes considering:

(a)the length of time the spouses lived together;

(b)the functions performed by each spouse during the period they lived together;

(c)an agreement between the spouses, or an order, relating to the support of either spouse.

The court has the discretion to impute income to one or both spouses. This means that when the court calculates spousal support, they will use an income amount that is greater than the amount the spouse makes. This may occur for various reasons, including where one spouse is intentionally under-employed or intentionally unemployed.

The court also has the discretion to award spousal support as either ongoing payments or a lump sum. In Parton v Parton, 2018 BCCA 273, the British Columbia Court of Appeal stated the court will weigh the advantages and disadvantages of either type of payment. Advantages of a lump sum payment may include that it can help the spouses end contact with each other, if they would prefer to limit or end all communication.  One disadvantage of a lump sum payment may be that the circumstances of one party change after the amount of the lump sum payment is determined. This might include one party later having greater or fewer needs than they did when the amount was calculated, and thus requiring more spousal support.


Once it is determined a spouse is entitled to spousal support, other steps in this process will include determining how much spousal support will be received and for exactly how long. The court may impute income to a spouse or award a lump sum payment, rather than ongoing payments. To learn about whether you may be entitled to spousal support, contact one of our Family Lawyers today.


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