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How a spousal support decision is made after a divorce

When married couples go through a divorce in Alberta, there is often one spouse who earns significantly less income than the other spouse. If the difference in income can be traced to something that happened during the couple's marriage, the higher-earning spouse may be obligated to make spousal support payments to the lower-earning spouse.

A judge who is considering whether or not to make a spousal support order will evaluate many different factors. The length of the marriage, the financial means of both spouses and the role each spouse took on during the marriage will be considered. Another important factor a judge is likely to consider is the care of children and how this may have affected the earning capacity of each spouse.

Spousal support is usually ordered after a divorce as a way to compensate the lower-earning spouse for sacrificing their own earning potential during the marriage. If the higher-earning spouse can afford to make payments, a judge will order spousal support to help a lower-earning spouse who is unable to become self sufficient immediately following a divorce. However, the spouse who is receiving the support will be expected to make reasonable efforts to become self-sufficient in time. A judge will also prioritize child support payments over spousal support payments.

Even if one spouse earns significantly less income than the other spouse, the lower-earning spouse might not be entitled to receive spousal support payments if they own valuable assets. While a decision about spousal support is being made, a lawyer representing a divorcing spouse might help to make sure that a judge is aware of all of the relevant financial information concerning both spouse's income and assets.

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