In 2001 the federal Department of Justice identified the need for a project to explore the possibility of developing some form of advisory spousal support guidelines. The aim of the project was to bring more certainty and predictability to the determination of spousal support under the Divorce Act.1 The project was a response to growing concerns expressed by lawyers, judges, mediators and the public about the lack of certainty and predictability in the current law of spousal support, creating daily dilemmas in advising clients, and negotiating, litigating or—in the case of judges—deciding spousal support issues. We were retained to direct that project. In January 2005, the Draft Proposal was released, setting out a comprehensive set of Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. These Advisory Guidelines have been used by spouses, lawyers, mediators and judges across Canada over the past three years. We received detailed comments and feedback on the Draft Proposal. What you hold in your hands is the final version of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. It is the revised version of the earlier Draft Proposal and is now the authoritative document on the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. The Draft Proposal is now only of historical interest. The term “guidelines” inevitably brings to mind the Federal Child Support Guidelines, enacted in 1997.2 We need to emphasize at the beginning that this comparison must be resisted. This project does not involve formal, legislative reform. Unlike the federal, provincial and territorial child support guidelines, these Advisory Guidelines are not legislated. They are instead intended to be informal guidelines that operate on an advisory basis only, within the existing legislative framework. They do not have the binding force of law and are applied only to the extent that lawyers and judges find them useful. They are guidelines in the true sense of the word. We have called them Advisory Guidelines to differentiate them from the child support guidelines.
Rollie Thompson & Carol Rogerson, Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (Ottawa: Department of Justice Canada, 2008).