During marriage, spouses owe each other respect, fidelity, succour and assistance, and they contribute to the expenses of the marriage in proportion to their respective means (articles 392 and 396 of the Civil Code of Quebec). Upon separation or divorce, spouses owe each other financial support. If one spouse is in financial need, often by reason of the role he or she assumed in the marriage, then the spouse who is better off will owe alimony (spousal support) to the spouse in need.
This does not apply to couples who live together and who are neither married nor living in a formal civil union. Just “shacking up,” no matter for how many years, does not lead to a claim for alimony.
Unlike in the case of child support, that are no government “guidelines” to determine what alimony should be paid by one spouse to the other. It all depends on the reasonable needs of the one spouse, and the financial means of the other spouse. All factors are taken into consideration: income from all sources, assets and liabilities, the length of the marriage, the degree of disparity between the finances of the two spouses. The rules to determine alimony are essentially the same whether the proceedings are for a divorce (under our federal Divorce Act), or for a separation as to bed and board (under our Civil Code of Quebec).
Also, the duration of support is often determined by the length of the marriage, and how long it can be reasonably expected that it will take for the financially dependent spouse to attain a reasonable degree of financial autonomy. Obviously in “traditional model” marriages, where one spouse has devoted many years to making a home, it may no longer be realistic for that spouse to attain full-time employment with adequate benefits or retirement protection.
For the Court to fix alimony, both spouses have to fill out their Sworn Statements of Income and Expenses, and disclose in all details, their income from all sources, their weekly (or monthly) living expenses, and all their assets and liabilities.