When a couple has children together, one partner will often stay at home with the children rather than work. Even couples or spouses who do not have children together but who live together for many years may wind up putting themselves at an economic disadvantage for the benefit of the relationship. The law in Ontario recognizes that spouses or common-law spouses may have a hard time getting back on their feet after a separation, and it affords individuals the right to request spousal support. Common-law couples must live together for at least three years prior to separation to request spousal support. Alternatively, common-law couples may demonstrate that there was some permanence to their relationship or that they have children together.
Spouses may work with attorneys to draft a written support agreement. If spouses cannot reach an agreement, a judge or an arbitrator may need to decide if spousal support is warranted. Judges will determine the amount of spousal support to which one spouse is entitled, and they will also establish a period of time over which the payments must be made. Payments may either be made on a monthly basis or as a lump sum. Lump-sum payments are not tax deductible for the payor spouse, but monthly payments are. Likewise, a receiving spouse will only be taxed on payments if they are made on a monthly basis.