Advisory Guidelines

As I wrote on the page about spousal support, spouses may be entitled to support when they separate.

If they are entitled to support, then the questions that need to be answered are: how much, and for how long?

Those questions are generally (though not always) answered by the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (or the SSAG).

The SSAG are not laws; they are exactly what you would guess they are based on their name–they are guidelines.

Having said that, judges refer to them a lot. And you will likely find (if you are involved in a divorce or separation) that lawyers refer to, and rely on them, a lot too. Think of them as handy rules for people to figure out the starting point of what is “fair” for spousal support.

So in both Ontario and BC, if you are discussing spousal support, you will almost certainly be thinking about what the SSAG say the amount (also called the “quantum” sometimes) and the duration of support should be.

The SSAG are actually a set of two wildly complicated formulas, one for spouses without children who are eligible for child support, and one for people with children who are receiving child support.

The SSAG are complex partly because they are meant to produce figures for as many Canadian spouses as possible, and spouses come in a lot of different variations and situations. But they are also complex because of their origin. The SSAG were formulas created intentionally to try to “fit” the general pattern of what spousal support awards judges had been making prior to the release of the SSAG.

No matter which formula is used, the main factors that influence how much and how long support is paid are the:

  1. length of the relationship;
  2. ages of the spouses; and
  3. incomes of the spouses.

The parties incomes are determined using the rules in the Child Support Guidelines.

The SSAG produce ranges, not fixed numbers (like the Child Support Guideline tables do).

Most family lawyers in Canada (if not all of them) uses software to calculate SSAG ranges. Trying to do it “by hand” would be a huge waste of time, given the complexity of the formulas and the variety of issues that influence the ranges they produce.

If the information on this site doesn't answer your question, you can book a free, no obligation consultation in Toronto about your divorce and family law rights in Ontario and BC.