Is spousal support compulsory in divorce or separation?

One federal Divorce Act governs married couples who file for divorce in British Columbia and all other provinces and territories. This act allows spousal support to be awarded, although only under certain circumstances. When a significant difference exists between the incomes of the two spouses, the court may award spousal support to be paid to the spouse who earns less. However, if that spouse is the owner of substantial assets, the court may disallow spousal support.

In cases in which a common-law couple decides to end their union, territorial or provincial laws will prevail. In British Columbia, individuals who were in marriage-like relationships for longer than two years may petition the court for spousal support. If a child was born to a common-law couple within the first two years of their union, one spouse might be eligible for support before the two-year period.

There are many aspects for judges to consider before awarding spousal support, such as the financial circumstances of both spouses along with their needs, how long their marriage lasted and the role each one played. Matters related to the care of the children and encouraging the lower-earning spouse to become self-sufficient are also considerations. The court may award spousal support to a spouse who sacrificed a career to care for the household and the children.

British Columbia people who are going through a divorce or a breakup of a common-law relationship may have many questions about the laws governing spousal support. Whether it is the person expected to provide support or the spouse seeking support, legal guidance is available. An experienced family law lawyer can provide answers along with support and guidance throughout the legal proceedings required to end a marriage or common-law relationship.

Source:, “About spousal support“, April 7, 2017

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