The current state of the law with respect to spousal support is governed by The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG), which were finally released in 2008. The Guidelines were not intended to be mandatory, but with the passage of time have become slavishly followed by the Courts.
A skilled family law practitioner is still essential to determine entitlement to spousal support and to input the correct data into the software but you will now have a consistent result at your first interview with your solicitor. The Judge and solicitors on both sides of the case now start on the "same page" when determining the quantum of spousal support and negotiate from there, if necessary.
The Guidelines do not change the law as it has developed for determining spousal support, which is really negotiating income-sharing at roughly the 50-50 level between separating couples. What the Guidelines do, is apply various complicated formulas to the data that is provided to arrive at three conclusions, low, medium and high ranges, which are in accord with the statute and case law as it has developed to this day and provide the answer in minutes. The figures are not markedly different from those the writer has achieved over the years when resolving spousal support but certainly, much easier, far less time consuming and not challenged by opposing counsel or the Judges.
The Guidelines will continue to develop with input from the bench and the bar. Revolutionary hardly describes this tool for calculating predictable outcomes, settling bitter disagreements and even allowing low-income couples who have tended to waive support rights out of fear of gambling on costly and ultimately uncertain legal battles to seek and obtain spousal support.
The most influential factors in the formulas are the length of a marriage and the presence or absence of dependent children. For marriages with children, post-separation child care responsibilities take on greater importance.
The Guidelines have become entrenched as a starting point in all negotiations and court applications and only in very unusual circumstances will the number arrived at for spousal support be different from the Guideline number. For example where one party has been left with unusually large expenses to take care of an elderly parent or disabled child or the payor is a self-employed person. There are often very legitimate disputes over how much personal "income" is represented by such grey areas as company car allowances.
The Guidelines have lead to greater equity and certainty in the large majority of cases where income is clear.
There is no longer a discrepancy between court rulings in different jurisdictions, with judges using the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines without exception.
The Guidelines are wholly in accord with my mission statement to resolve your case now even more satisfactorily with greater assurance as to the correctness of the settlement in a very quick and efficient manner.
To view the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines please click here, or call me to meet and discuss your case as planning and knowledge of the exact numbers will give you the most satisfactory result. An hour now will save you from uncomfortable surprises later.
Revised March 2015