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Spousal Support and Common-Law Partner Support

Spousal support or common-law partner support is money paid by one person to the other after they separate or, if they were married, divorce.

There are two steps in deciding whether spousal or common-law support should be paid. The first step is to figure out if a person is entitled to receive spousal support. Second, if a person is entitled to spousal support, a calculation is completed to determine how much is appropriate and for how long it should be paid.

Entitlement and quantum of support is calculated the same way for unmarried and married couples in Manitoba.

What is considered when determining entitlement to spousal or common-law partner support?

The court considers a number of factors when deciding whether one spouse or common-law partner should pay support to the other. These include:

  • the needs and financial circumstances of both spouses
  • the length of the marriage or relationship
  • the roles each played during their marriage or relationship
  • the effect of these roles on their current financial positions
  • as far as is practical, promoting the financial self-sufficiency of both parties

The court does not consider marital misconduct, such as adultery, when making a support order. Spousal or common-law partner support can be a complicated issue and it is a good idea to consult a family law lawyer.

Are common-law partners eligible for spousal or common-law partner support?

Common-law partners may seek an order for their own support under The Family Maintenance Act if:

  • they have registered their common-law relationship with the Vital Statistics Agency; or
  • they have lived together for at least a year and have had a child together; or
  • they have lived together continuously for at least three years

If the common-law partners have already agreed in writing to an amount of support, or not to claim support from each other, they cannot apply to the court for support.

If a common-law partner is entitled to claim support, the court will make its decision by considering the same factors it would look at if the partners were married.

Can spousal or common-law partner support be changed?

A party can apply to the court to change or end a spousal or common-law partner support order if an important change (what the court refers to as a material change in circumstances) has occurred. A material change is one which, if known at the time of the original order, would have resulted in a different order being made. An example of this would be an unexpected illness that impacts a person’s income.