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Understanding 20-Year Marriages – The Rule of 65

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How Can Ontario’s Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines Impact You if You Are Ending a Long-Term Marriage?

The end of a marriage is a challenging time, and there are many legal issues to consider, including spousal support obligations. Spousal support, also known as alimony, can be awarded following any divorce, but Ontario’s guidelines for the duration and amount of support are different for marriages lasting over 20 years. The court also makes special considerations based on the age of the support recipient at the time of the divorce, known as the “rule of 65.” If either of these circumstances apply, indefinite spousal support may be awarded. An experienced Ontario spousal support  lawyer can explain how these guidelines are used and what indefinite support can mean for your financial future.

What is Indefinite Spousal Support?

Many people think that an order of indefinite spousal support will result in payments that last for the rest of the recipient’s life. However, this is rarely the case. When the court awards indefinite spousal support, they are simply refraining from placing an end date on the payments at the time the support agreement is made. Indefinite spousal support is not generally meant to be permanent, and the support payments are still subject to the variation and review process.

If circumstances change for either party, for example, if the payor retires and experiences a decrease in income, the spousal support award can be reviewed and the payments adjusted or terminated. The court may also set an end date or modify the support payments if the recipient remarries, becomes self-sufficient, or has an increase in income. To lessen the confusion about the meaning of indefinite spousal support, it is often called “indefinite (duration not specified) support.”

How can an Individual Qualify for Indefinite Spousal Support?

Spousal support is meant to provide financial assistance to a spouse following a divorce to allow them the opportunity to achieve financial stability and independence. The amount and duration of spousal support depends upon several factors, such as:

  • The age and number of children you share, if any.
  • Your parenting time arrangement.
  • The length of your marriage.
  • How old you are at the time of divorce.
  • The financial status of both parties.
  • Whether one party has a disadvantage in their earning capacity.
  • The spouse’s contributions to the marriage and the couple’s joint finances.
  • One party’s financial need and the other party’s ability to pay.

In many cases, spousal support is a time-limited solution that gives the recipient the ability to seek employment, training, or other means of self-sufficiency. However, each situation is different, and there are cases where a more extended support period is necessary. Ontario’s Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) discuss two main circumstances where indefinite spousal support may be appropriate.

Marriages Lasting Over 20 Years

The SSAG recommends indefinite support in cases where the marriage has lasted 20 years or longer. The challenges of finding financial stability as a single person following a lengthy marriage may be significant, as it can be harder for older individuals to find well-paying positions within the workforce.

In long-term marriages, it is also more likely that one party spent more time child-rearing or tending to household duties instead of pursuing a career, and they will suffer financial hardships while trying to become self-supporting after the marriage.

The Rule of 65

The “rule of 65” takes into account not only the duration of the marriage but the individual’s age at the time of the separation. It allows for indefinite support in cases where the marriage lasted at least five years and the age of the individual plus the number of years of marriage equals or exceeds 65. For example, if a 58-year-old divorced after eight years of marriage, they would qualify for indefinite support under the rule of 65 because 58 + 8 = 66. While the duration of the support is impacted by the rule of 65, it does not necessarily affect the amount of the monthly support payment, which is governed by the income of each partner, and other factors. The support amount may also be subject to change when one or both parties reach retirement age.

Is Indefinite Spousal Support Guaranteed in Every Case Meeting These Guidelines?

It is vital to understand that the SSAG are only guidelines for determining the appropriateness of a spousal support award, not mandated laws. The court possesses significant leeway to decide what amount and duration of spousal support is suitable in each case. The court will always carefully consider whether indefinite support is necessary by considering if the individual is capable of supporting themselves in the near future, if they have the skills and physical ability to obtain and keep a job, whether they must care for children, and other variables.

Conversely, indefinite support may also be considered in cases that don’t quite meet the guidelines, such as marriages lasting just under 20 years. The recipient’s age, economic status, and ability to become self-sufficient will all play a role in the court’s ruling. The SSAG provides a starting point, but ultimately, the final decision rests with the court.

How Can an Experienced Lawyer Help You Navigate the Divorce and Spousal Support Process?

Spousal support awards and durations can vary widely. For many, these payments can make the difference between living comfortably after a divorce and facing serious financial challenges. If you are going through a divorce as an older individual or after many years of marriage, it is critical to consult with a knowledgeable spousal support lawyer who can help you understand your potential obligation or award. Contact Anthony Family Law today to speak with a skilled lawyer who can give you the personalized information and guidance you need: 647-933-2397.

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