Q. My wife and I are going through a separation. For the majority of the marriage, she made more money than I did. It has only been the last couple of years that I started to earn more than her. Would she have to pay me spousal support? – Thank you, C.
A: Hello C . It’s important to understand that spousal support is supposed to be a bridge to help one spouse equalize the standard of living between the two spouses once they’ve separated. However, there are many factors that a judge would look at before awarding spousal support—not just the amount of income that was earned by each spouse.
Unlike child support, there are only guidelines which may be adhered to in order to decide on the duration and amount of the support payments. So you may be able to negotiate this between the two of you if you really believe that there is a valid claim for support. But it’s important to realize that a judge is the only person who can make the ultimate decision—not a lawyer.
In general terms, issues like the length of the marriage, if there were children in the marriage, the differential in the amount of income earned by the two spouses, and other material details would all be taken into consideration. The judge might also try to determine if one spouse gave up an opportunity for the betterment of the family and therefore, as a result, might be entitled to some support.
If you are both making close to the same amount of money now, and it looks like this is likely to stay this way, then you might decide it is simply not worth it to pursue the matter further. However, if the spouse that is making the larger income is to continue to get raises and the other spouse is at their full potential, then there may be a good case to preserve the right to claim spousal support.
In all cases, when you are deciding on how to deal with issues surrounding support and property, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) who specializes in helping people understand their best financial options might be your best investment. Spending time and money fighting over issues that won’t be of such value to you in the end, is never in one’s best interests. Only the lawyers and the courts win.
Debbie Hartzman is a Certified Financial Planner, a Chartered Life Underwriter and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst in Kingston, Ont. She is also the author of ‘Divorce is not easy, but it can be fair.’
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