Vancouver Spousal & Child Support Lawyers
BC divorce lawyers use spousal and child support to ensure that children and ex-spouses are properly supported after marriage. With respect to child support, the good firm family lawyers make sure recipients receive the child support they are entitled to, and make sure payors only pay what you are required to. Not every spouse is entitled to spousal support. Here at thegoodfirm, our divorce lawyers make sure payors only pay the spousal support they are required to by law and recipients receive what is fairly theirs.
Who is entitled?
Every single child in British Columbia is entitled to Child Support pursuant to the Federal Child Support Guidelines. This is the only point in family law and divorce law that is black and white. The guidelines are based on the principle that spouses have a joint financial obligation to maintain the children of the marriage in accordance with their relative abilities to contribute to the performance of that obligation. In S(DB) v. G(SR), 2006 SCC 37, the court states that,
parents have an obligation to support their children in a way that is commensurate with their income. This parental obligation, like the children’s concomitant right to support, exists independently of any statute or court order. To the extent the federal regime has eschewed a purely need-based analysis, this free-standing obligation has come to imply that the total amount of child support owed will generally fluctuate based on the payor parent’s income. Thus, under the federal scheme, a payor parent who does not increase his/her child support payments to correspond with his/her income will not have fulfilled his/her obligation to his/her children. However, provinces remain free to espouse a different paradigm. When an application for retroactive support is made, therefore, it will be incumbent upon the court to analyze the statutory scheme in which the application was brought.
Not everyone is entitled to spousal support. To be entitled to spousal support you must meet one of the entitlement bases which are 1. Compensatory, 2. Non-compensatory or 3. Contractual. A spouse may be awarded spousal support on a contractual basis if, for example, the parties entered into a cohabitation agreement or prenuptial agreement which provides that spousal support will be payable on separation.
In the case of Chutter v. Chutter, 2008, BCCA 507, the court reviewed the difference between the compensatory and non-compensatory bases as follows:
(ii) Compensatory support
 Compensatory support is intended to provide redress to the recipient spouse for economic disadvantage arising from the marriage or the conferral of an economic advantage upon the other spouse. The compensatory support principles are rooted in the independent model of marriage, in which each spouse is seen to retain economic autonomy in the union, and is entitled to receive compensation for losses caused by the marriage or breakup of the marriage which would not have been suffered otherwise (Bracklow, at paras. 24, 41). The compensatory basis for relief recognizes that sacrifices made by a recipient spouse in assuming primary childcare and household responsibilities often result in a lower earning potential and fewer future prospects of financial success (Moge, at 861-863; Bracklow, at para. 39). In Moge, the Supreme Court of Canada observed, at 867-868:
The most significant economic consequence of marriage or marriage breakdown, however, usually arises from the birth of children. This generally requires that the wife cut back on her paid labour force participation in order to care for the children, an arrangement which jeopardizes her ability to ensure her own income security and independent economic well-being. In such situations, spousal support may be a way to compensate such economic disadvantage.
 In addition to acknowledging economic disadvantages suffered by a spouse as a consequence of the marriage or its breakdown, compensatory spousal support may also address economic advantages enjoyed by the other partner as a result of the recipient spouse’s efforts. As noted in Moge at 864, the doctrine of equitable sharing of the economic consequences of marriage and marriage breakdown underlying compensatory support seeks to recognize and account for both the economic disadvantages incurred by the spouse who makes such sacrifices and the economic advantages conferred upon the other spouse (emphasis added).
(iii) Non-compensatory support
 Where compensatory principles do not apply, need alone may be sufficient to ground a claim for spousal support (Bracklow, at para. 43). Non-compensatory support is grounded in the “social obligation model” of marriage, in which marriage is seen as an interdependent union. It embraces the idea that upon dissolution of a marriage, the primary burden of meeting the needs of the disadvantaged spouse falls on his or her former partner, rather than the state (Bracklow, at para. 23). Non-compensatory support aims to narrow the gap between the needs and means of the spouses upon marital breakdown, and as such, it is often referred to as the “means and needs” approach to spousal support.
 The concept of “needs” in the context of non-compensatory spousal support goes beyond basic necessities of life and varies according to the circumstances of the parties. As stated by Finch J.A. (as he then was) in Myers v. Myers (1995), 1995 CanLII 2274 (BC CA), 17 R.F.L. (4th) 298, 65 B.C.A.C. 226, at para. 10:
“Need” or “needs” are not absolute quantities. They may vary according to the circumstances of the parties and the family unit as a whole. “Need” does not end when the spouse seeking support achieves a subsistence level of income or any level of income above subsistence. “Needs” is a flexible concept and is one of several considerations which a trial judge must take into account in deciding whether any order for spousal support is warranted.
How much is fair?
In British Columbia, spouses are required to support each other and their children after marriage. The Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Federal Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines provide what the fair amount of child support and spousal support.
With respect to child support, the amount payable depends on four things:
- Your income (and potentially your;
- Your parenting arrangements; and
- The number of children you have.
The Federal Child Support Guidelines consist of tables which determines the amount of child support owing. It is entirely dependent on your income and how many children you have. You find the column matching your income and row matching the number of children you are paying for and where they intersect, the monthly amount of child support owing is set out. The only variables are where the parties cannot agree on how much income each spouse makes.
If the parties share custody of the children or have almost equal parenting time with the children, the amount owing is usually determined on a “set off” basis as follows: First, determine what spouse owes per month and set that off against what the other spouse owes per month. The difference is the amount owing (by the higher earner to the lower). If the parties earn approximately the same amount, there would be no child support owing.
In addition to the basic monthly amounts, the Federal Child Support Guidelines provide that parents are each required to pay a proportionate amount of “special expenses” to their income.
With respect to spousal support, the Federal Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines provides how much support is payable by one spouse to another. The purpose of spousal support is to equalize the parties’ incomes so that each spouse’s household has approximately the same non-disposable income.
The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are not law, however a judge must consider the guideline amounts prior to making a determination on spousal support. The spousal support guidelines take into account:
- Types of income;
- Levels of income; and
- Length of the marriage.
If you believe you are entitled to spousal and/or child support, we encourage you to contact us.
For a consultation, please fill out an online Family Law Form.