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The Difference between Spousal Support and Child Support in Canada

If a relationship between two partners ends, one partner may be entitled to spousal support. Generally, if one partner is in a better financial state than the other, they are required to pay spousal support. This allows the partner who is in need of support to maintain the standard of living with which they are accustomed to, have access to finances while they search for employment, and pay tuition fees for education or training in order to become self-sufficient. Entitlement to spousal support is based on the obligations of each spouse to support themselves and each other if they have the means to do so.

If children are present during divorce, child support takes precedent over spousal support. This ensures that parents continue to provide for their children as it is the child’s legal right to be supported by both parents. Generally the parent who is granted primary custody of the child, the custodial parent, is the one handling the expenses involved with raising the child. Non-custodial parents are legally required to pay the child support if their children are under the age of majority, or cannot live independently due to factors such as illness, disability, and education fees.

Both spousal support and child support are established by the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act. In terms of spousal support, the Divorce Act pertains to couples who were previously married, and the Family Law Act applies to common law couples. In terms of child support, the Divorce Act applies to legally married couples in the process of divorce or who are already divorced, and the Family Law Act pertains to couples who are legally married and are becoming separated rather than divorced. Also, spousal support may be deducted on the payer’s income tax return and is considered taxable to the recipient spouse, where as child support is not. Also, spousal support has no automatic entitlement once a person becomes a “spouse”.

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