There are many factors that are taken into account in determining how long spousal support shall run. In the absence of an agreement and if the court is asked to impose a time limit it looks to many different factors. Those factors include:
- SSAG ( Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines)
- Length of relationship (often the duration of spousal support corresponds with the number of years of the relationship itself).
- Are there any children from the relationship? (this will dramatically skew the results above). A short relationship that gives rise to the birth of a child will also dramatically increase the duration of spousal support.
- Age of the parties
- Future change in circumstances of the parties (an example might be the recipient forming a new relationship which provides him or her with an equivalent standard of living that they enjoyed prior to separation).
- Unlike child support, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are indeed merely guidelines and the courts use them as a starting point and are required to explain if they diverge from the guidelines. The guidelines take a number of factors into account such as the residence of the child/children, their custody, the incomes of the parties and produce a range of support from high, medium to low.
- Often, the courts will simply sidestep the determination of duration by ordering a review a number of years down the road when the courts will look at the matter afresh. A review is different from seeking a change based upon a material change in circumstances. In the latter, the court asks what is different from when the court initially made its order and the change in circumstances needs to be significant. A modest increase or decrease in income is not sufficient.
- Determining spousal support and its duration is still of more of an art form than a scientific calculation in sharp contrast to the calculation of child support.
- In other words a lawyer needs experience to predict what is often unpredictable.