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Spousal support, also known as “alimony,” is money one spouse pays the other to help meet financial needs after a divorce.

Many factors are taken into account when determining whether a former spouse has the right to receive spousal support payments. Here are three factors to keep in mind:

1. Paying former spouses for their role in the marriage

The role played by each spouse during their marriage can play a part in determining if either one can get spousal support.

For example, a couple can decide that one of them will continue to work during the marriage. Meanwhile, the other will stay home to raise the children. The spouse who works will continue to advance their career throughout the marriage.

So what happens if this couple were to divorce? Then the working spouse may end up in a better financial position than the spouse who stayed out of the workforce.

The spouse who stopped working could then apply for spousal support. Support payments following a divorce can help pay for this spouse’s lack of professional experience to meet the new demands of the labour market.

2. The length of the marriage can affect spousal support

Generally speaking, the longer you’ve lived together, the higher the chances are of you or your spouse getting spousal support following a divorce.

The period of cohabitation or the amount of time you’ve lived together can be used to make a decision on spousal support. As an example, let’s say a couple lived together for several years before getting married. This period of time can be used to make a decision on spousal support, whether you were married during that time or not.

3. Maintaining a standard of living after a divorce

One of the goals of spousal support is to ensure that former spouses can continue to maintain the same standard of living they had during the marriage even after a divorce.

For instance, let’s say a couple may have enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle during their marriage. They were able to do so since one of them earned a high income and paid most of the expenses. In this case, the other spouse could ask for spousal support to keep the same standard of living in the event of a divorce.

What are spousal support payment options in a divorce?

Spousal support can take different forms, including:

  • a lump-sum payment or
  • regular monthly payments.  

What happens if spousal support comes in the form of regular payments? Then it can be provided for a fixed length of time, such as five years. It can also be paid until the spouse receiving the support reaches the age of 65.

What if there isn’t a set end date for the payments? Then the spousal support will end if it’s cancelled by a new court order or if the spouse paying the support dies. Payments can also end by agreement between the parties or if other conditions contained in the court order have been satisfied.

  • Where does your money go? Use our monthly budget calculator to help you better manage your spending. 

Is spousal support tax deductible to the paying spouse?

Spousal support paid on regular basis is considered taxable income for the spouse receiving the money.

It’s considered a deductible expense for the spouse making the payments.

These tax measures must be taken under consideration when determining the amount of spousal support. For more information on this, please contact Revenu Québec or the Canada Revenue Agency.


Please note that this article is meant to provide general information only. Sun Life is not providing legal advice regarding spousal support payments, separation or divorce. Please seek independent legal advice if you need information on spousal support, separation and divorce.