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Family law: Length of spousal support payments can be perplexing

How many years a former spouse should receive support payments has been a bone of contention for quite some time. Alberta residents who pay and who receive spousal support are guided by both provincial and federal family law rules. Those who are divorced are can look to Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG), but decisions as to how long the support should last remains all over the map. Generally, the longer a couple was married, the longer support is payable, but that isn't written in stone.

Support guidelines, which apply to every province and territory in Canada, were introduced in 2008 with an aim of giving residents a more definitive picture of how support should be calculated. Courts consider two issues when deciding on payments: the length of the relationship and the age of the youngest child when the couple separated. If there are young children involved, chances are the payor will have to make payments for a longer period of time, especially when the recipient of spousal support is the primary caregiver for the children.

When it comes to family court judges, some place a shorter time limit on spousal support even when young children are in the care of the spouse in receipt of those payments. Reviews are usually required with indefinite orders made by a judge. Usually, when there is no end date for spousal support, either the payor or the payee can request a review at which time an end date might be set and the amount changed.

There are many confusing aspects when it comes to spousal support and how it relates to child support payments. Those who have questions might find the answers they're seeking by speaking with a lawyer experienced in Alberta family law. The laws surround support payments can be exasperating and a lawyer may be able to explain those laws to a client in a way that makes sense. 

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