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Spousal Relationships

In Saskatchewan, different forms of intimate relationships are legally recognized as “spousal relationships.” In addition to formal marriages, Saskatchewan law recognizes some relationships, such as when couples live together for a set period of time, as spousal relationships.

Comprehensive information on family law including information on divorce, dividing family property and spousal support can be found on familylaw.plea.org. This site also has a Form Wizard and an Agreement Maker to assist individuals who are trying to resolve their family law issues without the help of a lawyer.

People in spousal relationships do not give up any of their basic legal rights and freedoms upon entering a spousal relationship. Each spouse remains their own person in the spousal relationship and generally has the legal right to go about their life, independent of their spouse. People in a spousal relationship do, however, have certain rights and obligations in relation to the other spouse and any children of the relationship.

Separation

A court order or other legal document is not required for spouses to separate. A separation simply occurs when spouses stop living together as a couple.

The date of separation is important for a few reasons. For example, married couples can get divorced after one year of separation. Unmarried spouses who want to apply to the court to divide family property must do so within 24 months of their separation, while married couples can make the application any time before they are divorced.

Divorce

A court application is required to obtain a divorce. There must be legal grounds for a divorce. The most common ground is separation for at least one year but adultery or cruelty can also be used as grounds. The procedure for divorce alone is fairly simple if both spouses agree to the divorce. The most difficult matters for older spouses usually involve the division of family property and spousal support.

When an application for divorce is made, these other matters are usually dealt with at the same time. Couples should not finalize a divorce without first talking to a lawyer about family property and spousal support.

A court order for divorce ends the marriage and leaves the spouses free to remarry. However, spouses may still have obligations to one another that do not simply disappear with a divorce.

Dividing Family Property

Married spouses must make an application for division of family property before they are divorced. Unmarried spouses must make the application within 24 months following their separation.

Saskatchewan law recognizes that both spouses contribute to raising children, managing the household and financial support over the course of their relationship. Generally speaking, married spouses and couples who have lived together for at least two years are each entitled to an equal share of their family property, including the family home, pensions and RRSPs, regardless of whose name they are held in.

The value of property acquired before the spousal relationship began, except the family home, is exempt unless the court orders otherwise. This means that the value of that property at the time the spousal relationship began would not be divided between the spouses. However, any increase in the value since that time would be subject to division between the spouses. This can be an important consideration in second marriages or where a first marriage happens later in life.

The family home is treated differently. Generally speaking, the full value of the family home will be divided equally unless it would be unfair and unjust to do so. This may mean that in some cases a home that was owned solely by one spouse before the relationship began will be divided equally between the spouses. The court will only consider an even division of the family home as unfair if there are extraordinary circumstances.

Other family property is also divided equally unless it would be unfair to do so. However, when dealing with family property other than the family home, the court will also consider factors such as...

  • how long the couple has lived together
  • when the property was acquired
  • how the property was acquired
  • tax liabilities if the property has to be sold
  • the value of family property outside of Saskatchewan
  • debts of the spouses
  • any interest that another person has in the property

In dividing family property, the court will not consider improper or immoral conduct of the parties unless the conduct impacts the family property. For example, the court will always consider whether a spouse has been wasting family property, giving it away or selling it to avoid having it divided, but other behaviour that doesn’t affect family property is not considered by the court.

Spousal Support

If a couple separate or divorce, there is no automatic right to spousal support. However, married spouses - or individuals who have lived together as spouses for at least two years - may be required to pay support to the other spouse. The need for support and the ability to pay support are important factors.

When deciding whether to order spousal support, courts will consider factors such as...

  • the financial means, needs and circumstances of each spouse
  • the length of the spousal relationship
  • the role each spouse had during the relationship and the effect on each
  • any court order or agreement regarding spousal support

Once it is determined that a spousal support order is appropriate, an amount still needs to be determined. Spousal support amounts may vary widely based on many of the same factors used to determine whether a support order is appropriate in the first place. There are, however, Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) in place that may help the court or the parties themselves to simplify determining an amount or at least provide an appropriate starting point. Spousal support guidelines are advisory only, not mandatory. They include formulas that use factors such as the income of both spouses and the length of the relationship to calculate the amount of spousal support.

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