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How to Not Pay Spousal Support in Canada

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Divorce can be a challenging and emotionally draining process, and one of the most contentious issues is often the payment of spousal support. Many individuals going through a divorce wonder, "how to not pay spousal support in Canada?" While spousal support is a complex issue governed by Canadian family law, there are legal ways to reduce or avoid paying spousal support. In this blog post, we will explore the intricacies of spousal support in Canada, discuss the factors that determine spousal support payments, and provide strategies for minimizing or avoiding spousal support.

Understanding Spousal Support in Canada

Spousal support is financial assistance paid by one spouse to the other after a marriage or common-law relationship has ended. Under the Family Law Act and the Divorce Act, Canadian courts have the authority to order spousal support payments based on various factors, such as the length of the marriage, the roles each spouse played during the relationship, and the financial needs of each spouse.

The primary purpose of spousal support is to reduce financial inequality between former spouses, compensate a spouse who has experienced economic hardship due to the breakdown of the marriage, or to help a lower-income spouse become self-sufficient. The amount and duration of spousal support depend on many factors, including the recipient spouse's financial need and the paying spouse's ability to pay support.

Is Spousal Support Mandatory in Canada?

Spousal support is not mandatory in all cases, and the courts have discretion when determining whether a spouse is entitled to spousal support. Some situations in which a spouse may not be required to pay spousal support include cases where both spouses have similar incomes, the marriage was of short duration, or the recipient spouse is already financially self-sufficient.

Can You Go to Jail for Not Paying Spousal Support in Canada?

Failure to pay spousal support as ordered by a court can result in serious consequences, including fines, garnishment of wages, and even imprisonment. While jail time is not a common outcome, it is essential to comply with a spousal support order to avoid these penalties.

Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSGA) provide a framework for determining spousal support in Canada. These guidelines take into account factors such as the length of the relationship, the incomes of both spouses, and any child support obligations. Although the guidelines are not legally binding, Canadian courts often use them as a starting point when determining how much spousal support should be paid.

What is the Average Spousal Support Payment in Canada?

There is no specific "average" spousal support payment in Canada, as the amount of support awarded depends on the unique circumstances of each case. However, the SSGA provide a range of potential support amounts based on the income disparity between spouses and the length of the relationship.

Don’t Want To Pay Spousal Support?: Encouraging Self-Sufficiency

One of the most effective ways to avoid paying spousal support or to reduce the duration of support payments is to encourage the recipient spouse to become self-sufficient. In some cases, the court may order time-limited spousal support to provide the recipient spouse with financial assistance while they pursue education or retraining to improve their employment prospects.

By supporting the recipient spouse's efforts to become self-sufficient, the paying spouse may be able to reduce their spousal support obligations over time. Additionally, the courts may consider a spouse's reasonable efforts to become self-supporting when determining the amount and duration of spousal support.

Cohabitation Agreements and Prenuptial Agreements

Cohabitation Agreements and Prenuptial Agreements are legal documents that can help protect your financial interests and potentially reduce or eliminate spousal support obligations in the event of a relationship breakdown. These agreements outline the financial arrangements between partners and can include provisions related to spousal support.

A well-drafted agreement can address issues such as the amount and duration of spousal support payments, or even waive spousal support entirely, as long as the terms are fair and reasonable. However, it is crucial to consult with a family law lawyer when drafting these agreements to ensure that they are legally enforceable.

Marriage Agreement and Separation Agreement

A marriage agreement, also known as a prenuptial agreement, is entered into before marriage, while a separation agreement is created after the breakdown of a marriage or common-law relationship. Both types of agreements can address spousal support issues and may help avoid paying spousal support if the terms are fair and in accordance with Canadian family law.

Divorce Mediation and Collaboration

Alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and collaboration, can help spouses reach mutually beneficial agreements regarding spousal support. By engaging in these processes, spouses can work together to negotiate spousal support arrangements that reflect their unique circumstances and financial needs.

Mediation and collaboration can be less adversarial than traditional litigation, which may lead to more favourable spousal support outcomes for both parties. Additionally, agreements reached through mediation or collaboration may be more likely to be upheld by the courts, as they reflect the parties' voluntary decisions and are generally considered to be fair and reasonable.

Tax Implications and Strategies

Understanding the tax implications of spousal support payments can help you structure the payments for tax efficiency and potentially reduce the overall financial impact of spousal support obligations. In Canada, spousal support payments are generally tax-deductible for the payor spouse and taxable for the recipient spouse. By structuring support payments to minimize tax burdens, you may be able to reduce the overall cost of spousal support.

Paying Spousal Support: Lump-Sum Payments and Property Division

One way to minimize or avoid ongoing spousal support payments is to negotiate a lump-sum payment or an alternative property division arrangement. A lump-sum payment involves the payor spouse making a one-time payment to the recipient spouse, which can satisfy their spousal support obligations entirely or partially.

While a lump-sum payment may require a significant upfront cost, it can provide both parties with financial certainty and eliminate the need for ongoing monthly support payments. Additionally, a creative property division arrangement may help reduce or eliminate spousal support obligations by providing the recipient spouse with sufficient assets to become financially self-sufficient.

Appealing or Varying Spousal Support Orders

In some cases, it may be possible to appeal or vary a spousal support order to reduce or eliminate spousal support payments. Grounds for appealing or varying a support order may include a material change in circumstances, such as a significant increase in the recipient spouse's income or the paying spouse experiencing financial hardship.

To appeal or vary a support order, you will need to provide evidence of the change in circumstances and demonstrate that the current spousal support order is no longer appropriate. It is essential to consult with a family law lawyer if you are considering appealing or varying a spousal support order, as the legal requirements and procedures can be complex.

Do I Have to Pay Spousal Support if My Ex is Living with Someone in Canada?

In Canada, cohabitation with a new partner may impact spousal support obligations. If the recipient spouse begins living with a new partner, the paying spouse may argue that the recipient spouse's financial needs have changed, and their entitlement to spousal support should be reassessed. The courts will consider factors such as the nature of the new relationship, the financial contributions of the new partner, and the extent to which the recipient spouse's financial needs have been reduced.

However, it is important to note that cohabitation alone does not automatically terminate spousal support. The paying spouse must apply to the court to have the spousal support order varied or terminated based on the new circumstances. It is crucial to consult with a family law lawyer if you believe that your ex-spouse's cohabitation should result in a reduction or termination of spousal support.


In conclusion, avoiding or minimizing spousal support payments in Canada requires a comprehensive understanding of the legal landscape, negotiation skills, and creative problem-solving. By taking proactive steps to encourage self-sufficiency, entering into enforceable legal agreements, pursuing alternative dispute resolution methods, optimizing tax strategies, considering lump-sum payments or alternative property division arrangements, and appealing or varying spousal support orders when appropriate, you can protect your financial interests and achieve a fair and equitable outcome in your divorce settlement.

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