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LIFETIME VS. INDEFINITE SUPPORT – What are the difference and how can you change indefinite support duration.

Angela Princewill

January 13, 2021
If you’re separating from your spouse, you may be obliged to pay spousal support. The amount of spousal support you have to pay and the duration/ length of time  you have to pay support for depends on a variety of factors including:
  • how long you were married/cohabited
  • the age of the recipient on the date of separation
  • if you have children with your spouse
  • the child custody arrangement
  • the age of the children
  • if you choose to restructure support payments to reduce the number of support payments
  • your respective financial circumstances
  • the basis of entitlement/strength of any compensatory claim
    • recipient’s need  and ability of the payor to pay
  • any special needs of the children
For long term marriages of 20 years or more, the duration of spousal support is usually for an  “indefinite (unspecified) duration, subject to variation and possibly review”. Many payors get concerned when they see this as they interpret it as meaning that would have to pay spousal support forever. Even recipients are surprised when after the passage of time, they discover that their spousal support could be reduced or terminated as they imagined they would receive spousal support in the same amount until they died.
Spousal support for an indefinite duration and spousal support for the recipient’s lifetime are very different things.
The spousal support advisory guidelines would recommend indefinite support when the relationship is 20 years or longer or when the rule of 65 applies (see below for the meaning of the  Rule of 65). Indefinite support simply means that at the time the support agreement or order is being made, an end date would not be set. Indefinite support amounts can also be changed. Variation and review of the amount of spousal support being paid is  possible if there is a change in circumstances.
In short, despite spousal support being set for an indefinite/ unspecified duration, in the future an end date can be fixed, support can be terminated, and the amount of spousal support can change. What are some factors that could lead to this ?
  • the payor’s retirement
  • remarriage of the recipient or the recipient being in a marriage-like relationship
  • changes in income
  • recipient being deemed self-sufficient, even if based on income being imputed to the recipient.
Support recipients are required to make reasonable attempts to become self-sufficient even if they have a spousal support agreement or order for an indefinite duration.
The Rule of 65
It applies to marriages of 5 years or longer where the length of the parties’ relationship plus the recipient’s age at the date of separation, equals or exceeds 65.  In this case, an indefinite duration of spousal support may be appropriate, even though the parties’ relationship is less than 20 years.
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