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Beyond Quantum and Duration in Spousal Support

For many families spousal support is a difficult topic to address at the end of a relationship. It is easy to focus on the dollar figures and the amount of time support will be paid for. From a lawyer’s perspective it is critical to also spend time examining the roles taken on and decisions made during the relationship as those inform not only entitlement to support but also the hotly contested issues of quantum and duration.

It can be hard to gaze into a crystal ball during a time of personal upheaval and state with confidence that x, y and z will transpire in the future. Add to that a global pandemic and significant economic shifts in Alberta and our seer abilities are perhaps even more uncertain. Add again what individual sensitivities parties have about risk tolerance, confidence in reentering the work force, exhaustion with a legal process and it is clear that an important part of a settlement is going to be balancing values of certainty and flexibility between parties.

The courts have traditionally either mandated a review upon certain specific occurrences coming to pass (passage of time, completion of training programs etc) or a variation upon a material change in circumstances. These allow parties to come back and have another discussion about spousal support when some unknowns become known or when life takes sudden turns.

If a review is a good option for a family, your lawyers can help craft a list of what needs to happen in the period leading up to a review. It is unhelpful often to just leave it to the fates of time and hope something different will occur. What is the plan and how are the parties going to work towards that plan?

In a variation situation your lawyer can still assist in adding elements of certainty by limiting,  expanding or defining the scope of changes that allow for variation.

It is possible to have other creative arrangements to address future unknowns as well, depending on client’s needs for certainty or alternatively flexibility we can explore sharing in future successes and setbacks as careers evolve, lump sum payments of support, hybrid arrangements of periodic and lump sum support, or step down payment schedules. In negotiated settlements there are untold options to craft an arrangement that meets your family’s specific needs and individual views on flexibility and certainty.

Individual risk tolerance is a major, but unlegislated, component of spousal support arrangements. Our lawyers can help you understand the risks and manage them in way that works for you and your family.