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How is entitlement to spousal support determined in Alberta?

Alberta's Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines offer formulas for deciding the amount and duration of support to be paid. However, use of the guidelines can lead to a variety of potential payment amounts, and the determination of spousal support can be very complicated.

Before the amount and duration of support are decided, entitlement to the support must be established. The fact that one spouse earns more income than the other does not automatically mean that spousal support should be paid. Entitlement to spousal support is based on compensatory or non-compensatory claims, and here let's discuss the difference between the two.

Compensatory spousal support is awarded because of an economic disadvantage caused by the marriage. For example, one spouse's role during the marriage may have involved child-rearing that resulted in the spouse's loss of earning capacity. Compensatory claims for spousal support can also be based on child-rearing and other matters related to lost earning capacity after the divorce.

Non-compensatory spousal support is need-based. Married couples tend to become economically interdependent, meaning that one spouse may require support from the other to meet basic needs after the marriage. Non-compensatory support, which is generally meant to address economic hardship resulting from the divorce, may also be awarded if one spouse's standard of living declines significantly from the standard during the marriage.

For more on how the duration of spousal support is determined, please see our previous post, "Things you should know about Spousal Support Guidelines in Alberta."

A helpful user's guide is also provided by the Department of Justice Canada.

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