Spousal maintenance is a concept which attempts to “equalize” spouses’ incomes and lifestyles after they separate.
Years ago we used to spend hours trying to determine who needed what to maintain their lifestyle and who had what income available. This approach was called a “needs” and “means” test. It was a complicated process which was expensive in terms of legal fees and fairly arbitrary because a person’s need is subjective depending on what they feel is an appropriate lifestyle. It was further complicated by the fact that because spousal maintenance is a tax deduction for the payor and is taxable in the hands of the recipient, the tax consequences had to be taken into account which often meant hiring an accountant as well as a lawyer.
In order to simplify this and make it more certain the federal government produced the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines which set out a formula for calculating spousal maintenance. Although these guidelines are just “guidelines” the courts have followed them fairly consistently since they were created.
You can’t however just use the guidelines without using a software program called DivorceMate. Most family lawyers subscribe to DivorceMate and use it to advise their clients. The main data which is needed to run a DivorceMate calculation is as follows:
- ages of each spouse at separation
- length of relationship from cohabitation to separation
- number of children and their ages at separation
- who the children live with (i.e. is it shared parenting or do the children reside primarily with one of the parents)
- each spouse’s gross annual income and the source of their income (i.e. is it employment income, dividend income, rental income, etc.)
- is the income received by each spouse taxable or non-taxable
- do the spouses pay union dues and do they receive benefits from their employment
Other information can be relevant and used in the calculation. Once this information is input into DivorceMate the program gives you the appropriate child maintenance payment along with a range of spousal maintenance being low, mid or high. In my blog next week I will go into the DivorceMate calculation and how it has been interpreted in more detail.