Motions to Change: Spousal Support

How can I change my spousal support Order?

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In our previous post, we discussed the material change in circumstances test as it related to child support. In this post, we will discuss the same test in relation to Motions to Change spousal support.

What do I need to prove in Order to vary spousal support?

As with child support, in Order to successfully obtain an Order varying spousal support, you must satisfy the material change in circumstances test. You have to be able to show that there has been a material change in the condition, means, needs or other circumstances of either former spouse since the initial spousal support Order, or the last variation Order made in respect of the initial Order. This change must be “material” and not trivial or insignificant, and the onus is on the party seeking a variation to prove the change occurred.

When determining whether to vary spousal support under the federal Divorce Act, the court must satisfy itself not only that there has been a material change in circumstances, but also any variation Order the court makes must meet the following legislative objectives. A variation Order must:

  1. Recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the former spouses arising form the marriage or its breakdown;
  2. Apportion between the former spouses any financial consequences arising form the care of any child of the marriage over and above any obligation of the support of any child of the marriage;
  3. Relieve any economic hardship of the former spouses arising form the breakdown of the marriage; and
  4. In so far as practicable, promote the economic self-sufficiency of each former spouse within a reasonable period of time.

What if my spousal support Order was for a specific duration, and it has ended?

If you have an Order for spousal support for a specified duration or until a specific event, a court cannot make a variation Order after that duration has expired or the event has occurred, unless it is satisfied of the following:

  1. A variation Order is necessary to relieve the economic hardship arising from a material change to the condition, means, needs or other circumstances of either spouse relating to the marriage; and
  2. The changed circumstances, had they existed at the time of the making of the spousal support Order, would likely have resulted in a different Order.

What constitutes a “material change” for varying spousal support?

There is no specific list of factors or events that are considered a “material change of circumstances.” Material changes could be an increase or decrease in the income of either former spouse, termination of child support obligations, a spouse’s new relationship, or the loss of a job.

In the next post, we review some cases where a court considered if a material change had occurred, and what change, if any, should be made to address it.