Spousal Support

Generally, Spousal Support is determined after property division.  There are two broad concepts with regard to Spousal Support: entitlement and quantum. 

One online resource with regard to BC spousal support is found at:

The first step in a Spousal Support application is to determine entitlement. 

The Divorce Act states the following with regard to spousal support:

Pursuant to s. 15.2(4) of the Divorce Act, factors to consider in ordering spousal support include:

(a) the length of time the spouses cohabited;

(b) the functions performed by each spouse during cohabitation; and

(c) any order, agreement or arrangement relating to support of either spouse.

Section 15.2(6) of the Divorce Act provides that the objectives of the spousal support order are to:

(a) recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the marriage or its breakdown;

(b) apportion between the spouses any financial consequences arising from the care of any child of the marriage over and above any obligation for the support of any child of the marriage;

(c) relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the marriage; and

(d) in so far as practicable, promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time.

A rough calculator with regard to the amount of spousal support payable can be found at:

Common-law relationships

In the case of Campbell v. Campbell, 2011 BCSC 1491 (CanLII), the court summarized the law with regard to the determination of whether a person is in a common-law relationship:

[40] The starting point with respect to what constitutes a marriage-like relationship is the Court of Appeal’s decision in Gostlin v. Kergin 1986 CanLII 164 (BC CA), (1986), 3 B.C.L.R. (2d) 264 at 268, 1 R.F.L. (3d) 448 [Gostlin], wherein the Court stated:

 … If each partner had been asked, at any time during the relevant period of more than two years, whether, if their partner were to be suddenly disabled for life, would they consider themselves committed to life-long financial and moral support of that partner, and the answer of both of them would have been ‘Yes’, then they are living together as husband and wife. If the answer would have been ‘No’, then they may be living together, but not as husband and wife.

Of course, in the particular circumstances of any case, the answer to that question may prove elusive. If that is so, then other, more objective indicators may show the way. Did the couple refer to themselves, when talking to their friends, as husband and wife, or as spouses, or in some equivalent way that recognized a long-term commitment? Did they share the legal rights to their living accommodation? Did they share their property? Did they share their finances and their bank accounts? Did they share their vacations? In short, did they share their lives? And, perhaps most important of all, did one of them surrender financial independence and become economically dependent on the other, in accordance with a mutual arrangement?

[41] The subjective intention of the parties is not determinative. As suggested in Gostlin, if one party submits that it was not their intention to commence a marriage-like relationship at that particular time, his or her statement is not conclusive if objective factors exist that suggest that a marriage-like relationship existed (see also Takacs v. Gallo 1998 CanLII 6429 (BC CA), (1998), 157 D.L.R. (4th) 623 at para. 53, 48 B.C.L.R. (3d) 265 (C.A.), leave to appeal to SCC ref’d, [1998] S.C.C.A. No. 238).

[42] In Molodowich v. Penttinen, reflex, [1980] O.J. No. 1904, 17 R.F.L. (2d) 376 (Dist. Ct.), the Court delineated the type of objective factors that might point to the existence of a marriage-like relationship. Such factors include: their living and sleeping arrangements; their sexual and personal behaviour; how they divided domestic tasks; whether and how they interacted with their respective families and communities; whether they held themselves out as a “couple”; whether one spouse relied on the other for financial support; and their conduct and attitude towards children.

[43] There is no “checklist of characteristics” that must be present in order to qualify as a marriage or marriage-like relationship. As the Court held in Austin v. Goerz, 2007 BCCA 586 (CanLII), 2007 BCCA 586 at para. 58, 74 B.C.L.R. (4th) 39 [Austin]:

[58] It is understandable that the presence or absence of any particular factor cannot be determinative of whether a relationship is marriage-like. This is because equally there is no checklist of characteristics that will invariably be found in all marriages. In this regard I respectfully agree with the following from the judgment of Ryan-Froslie J. in Yakiwchuk v. Oaks, 2003 SKQB 124 (CanLII), 2003 SKQB 124 [Yakiwchuk]:

[10] Spousal relationships are many and varied. Individuals in spousal relationships, whether they are married or not, structure their relationships differently.In some relationships there is a complete blending of finances and property – in others, spouses keep their property and finances totally separate and in still others one spouse may totally control those aspects of the relationship with the other spouse having little or no knowledge or input. For some couples, sexual relations are very important – for others, that aspect may take a back seat to companionship. Some spouses do not share the same bed. There may be a variety of reasons for this such as health or personal choice. Some people are affectionate and demonstrative. They show their feelings for their “spouse”by holding hands, touching and kissing in public. Other individuals are not demonstrative and do not engage in public displays of affection. Some “spouses”do everything together – others do nothing together. Some “spouses” vacation together and some spend their holidays apart. Some “spouses” have children -others do not. It is this variation in the way human beings structure their relationships that make the determination of when a “spousal relationship”exists difficult to determine. With married couples, the relationship is easy to establish. The marriage ceremony is a public declaration of their commitment and intent. Relationships outside marriage are much more difficult to ascertain. Rarely is there any type of “public” declaration of intent. Often people begin cohabiting with little forethought or planning. Their motivation is often nothing more than wanting to “be together”. Some individuals have chosen to enter relationships outside marriage because they did not want the legal obligations imposed by that status. Some individuals have simply given no thought as to how their relationship would operate. Often the date when the cohabitation actually began is blurred because people “ease into” situations, spending more and more time together. Agreements between people verifying when their relationship began and how it will operate often do not exist.

[44] Each relationship is unique, and as described by Dardi J. in J.J.G. v. K.M.A., 2009 BCSC 1056 (CanLII), 2009 BCSC 1056 at para. 34, 71 R.F.L. (6th) 349 [J.J.G.], “in undertaking the analysis of what constitutes a marriage-like relationship, the court should take a broad view in order to reflect the diversity of spousal relationships that exist in modern society.” Further, the Court noted at para. 37:

 [37] In summary, in undertaking an analysis of whether persons are living together as spouses, the court must examine the relationship as a whole and consider all the various objective criteria referred to in the authorities. The presence or absence of one particular factor will not be determinative. The court must recognize that each relationship is unique and, in applying a flexible approach within the context of the particular relationship, make a determination as to whether the parties intended to and were living in a marriage-like relationship.

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