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Free information about divorce in Canada - Spousal support and property equalization



Free information about Divorce in Canada


  1. How is spousal support decided?

  2. Does it matter whose fault it is that the marriage is over?

  3. How do we divide up our property?


How is spousal support decided?

During a marriage, spouses usually share their love, their time and their income. They both invest in their life together. But unlike an investment with a bank that pays a given amount of interest, an investment in a life together is difficult to add up and then divide.

For example, you may have worked and paid all the bills. Maybe you worked while your spouse trained to get a better job. Or you may have helped in your spouse's business. Often, a spouse gives up a job so that he or she can stay home, manage the household, and care for the children. These contributions to a marriage all have value. The Divorce Act sets out factors and goals to be considered when figuring out if one spouse should pay another spouse financial support after a divorce. Among these factors are answers to the following questions.

  • How long did you live together?
  • What was your role in the marriage?
  • Who is living with the children?

The amount of spousal support to be paid depends on the needs of each spouse and on their income and resources.

Other things are also important. The law sets several goals to keep in mind.

  • Spousal support should give value to the contributions made during the marriage. If one spouse has benefited financially from a contribution, the other spouse should be compensated.

  • Another goal is to make sure that after a marriage is over, one spouse doesn't suffer economic hardship.

  • A third goal is to make sure that the spouse who lives with the children is not at a financial disadvantage because of that.

  • Finally, spousal support should help each spouse become economically independent within a reasonable amount of time, if possible.

A judge can order one spouse to pay spousal support to the other for a particular amount of time or indefinitely.

Does it matter whose fault it is that the marriage is over?

The reasons your marriage is over have nothing to do with your financial obligations to each other after a divorce. The divorce law says clearly that the court will not consider the behaviour or misconduct of either spouse in deciding on support payments. Fault is not taken into account.


How do we divide up our property?

The Divorce Act does not deal with sharing your property or debts. Each province and territory has its own law that sets out the rules for dividing the property and debts you and your spouse have. Click here for information about property equalization rules in Ontario.

"Property" includes such things as the home you and your spouse shared, its contents, any other real estate, pensions from employment, Canada or Quebec Pension Plan credits, RRSPs, investments, bank accounts and cash. Debts include such things as amounts you owe on your credit cards, your mortgage, and any loans you have. Some provinces or territories also include business assets in their definition of property. It is very important to receive legal advice in respect to property division.

Usually, people who are separating come to an agreement about how to divide the property and debts fairly. This agreement may become part of the written separation agreement. For separation agreements to be legally binding, they usually require independent legal advice and full financial disclosure. In Ontario, they must be witnessed.

In some provinces and territories, if you wait too long after your separation or divorce to make a claim, you may lose all your rights to share in family property or spousal support. Check with a lawyer.

Canada Pension Plan (CPP) credits are a special category of property. Once you and your spouse are separated, and if you meet other basic requirements, you or your spouse can fill in a form to ask the CPP to divide equally the CPP credits you both earned while you were married. The Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) also allows you to split your pension credits.

Your local Canada or Quebec Pension Plan office has pamphlets that tell you how to do this.


Divorce in Canada
Divorce in Canada and Children/Child Support
Divorce in Canada and going to court and alternatives

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Last updated on January 1, 2019