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Family law: When a payee doesn't want to work

Spousal support seems to be one of the most contentious issues when it comes to divorce settlements. These issues come under the family law umbrella in Alberta. So, when a spouse is paying support to his or her former partner who he or she believes simply doesn't want to work, the Divorce Act looks at four areas when it comes to support payments: relief of economic hardship arising from marriage breakdown; how much each spouse contributes financially to caring for children over and above child support; disadvantages or advantages coming out of the marriage or the breakdown of the marriage and how each individual has gone about trying to be financially self-sufficient within a reasonable time frame.

When children are not a part of the scenario, any spousal payments are likely to be transitional or until a former spouse becomes financially viable. Support payments are likely to end when that is accomplished. There is an exception to that, however. When spouses had been married for 20 or more years and they're in the 50s or older, it may be that spousal support could be indefinite.

When divorced parents are in their 40s, it is also unlikely that support would have a definite end, but will probably be reviewed every three to five years. This gives the payee a chance to get back into the workforce before the court will decide on long-term support. A family court judge will make the decision on whether a payee spouse has made the efforts to become financially independent.

A lawyer experienced in Alberta family law knows that a payor's responsibility may not end when his or her former spouse finally gets a job. A lawyer may be able to provide legal counsel to payor and payee clients in these situations. Clients' situations are individual, but the laws that govern these issues are not.

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