Spousal Support & Alimony

Spousal Support in Ontario: Eligibility, Duration, and Modification

Written by Russell Alexander ria@russellalexander.com / (905) 655-6335

Spousal support, often referred to as alimony, is a critical component of many divorces and separations in Ontario, Canada. It’s a payment made by one spouse to the other to mitigate the economic effects of a separation or divorce. Understanding the nuances of spousal support is essential for anyone going through a marital breakdown in 2024. This article explores the eligibility for spousal support, its potential duration, and how it can be modified, providing a comprehensive guide for those navigating this complex aspect of family law.

1. Eligibility for Spousal Support

Marital Status: Both legally married and common-law partners (who have cohabited for at least three years or have a child together and have been in a relationship of some permanence) may be eligible for spousal support in Ontario.

Entitlement Factors: Courts consider various factors when determining eligibility, including the roles each spouse played during the marriage, the length of the relationship, the financial impact of the marriage’s breakdown on each spouse, and each party’s needs and ability to pay.

Agreements: Couples can also outline spousal support terms in a prenuptial agreement or separation agreement, subject to legal scrutiny to ensure fairness and adherence to legal standards.

2. Duration of Spousal Support

Indefinite or Fixed-Term: The duration of spousal support payments can vary widely. In some cases, support might be indefinite, especially after long marriages. In other situations, it might be for a fixed term, allowing the recipient time to become self-sufficient.

Guidelines: The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) provide a framework for determining the duration based on the length of the marriage and the ages of the parties at the time of separation.

Review Provisions: Orders or agreements often contain review provisions, allowing for reassessment at a future date or upon the occurrence of a significant event.

3. Modification of Spousal Support

Material Change in Circumstances: A spousal support order or agreement can be modified if there’s been a material change in circumstances. This might include a significant change in either party’s income, employment status, or health.

Legal Process: To modify support, the party seeking the change must apply to the court or negotiate a new agreement. They must provide evidence of the change in circumstances and demonstrate why the modification is necessary.

Limitations and Clauses: Some agreements contain non-modification clauses, which can limit or prevent changes to support terms. These are typically subject to legal review to ensure they don’t cause undue hardship.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

Understand Your Rights: Whether you’re potentially paying or receiving spousal support, understanding your legal rights and obligations is crucial. Each situation is unique, and entitlement and duration can vary significantly.

Keep Documentation: Maintain thorough records of your financial situation, including income, assets, and expenses. This information is vital for calculating support and can be crucial if modifications are necessary.

Seek Legal Advice: Spousal support law is complex and nuanced. Consulting with a family lawyer can provide clarity and ensure that any agreement or order is fair and complies with current legal standards.

Consider Mediation: If you and your former partner are open to discussion, mediation can be a cost-effective way to negotiate spousal support terms without a lengthy court process.


In 2024, spousal support continues to be a vital but complex aspect of family law in Ontario. Whether you’re in the early stages of considering separation or are already navigating the process, understanding the factors that affect spousal support eligibility, duration, and modification is key to securing a fair and sustainable outcome.

David W. Cahill, Divorce Lawyer and Mediator

Remember, the specifics of each case can greatly influence the terms of support, making personalized legal advice invaluable. By approaching spousal support with a clear understanding and the right support, you can ensure that your financial and emotional well-being are protected during and after the transition.

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.