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Child and spousal support when you are on social assistance

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Do I have to try to get spousal support?

OW and ODSP can require you to make "reasonable efforts" to get spousal support from someone who is or was your spouse as defined by family law.

Family law definition of "spouse"

In family law, a spouse is someone of the same or opposite sex who:

  • you are married to
  • you have been living with as a couple for at least 3 years
  • you have been living with, in what the law calls "a relationship of some permanence" and the two of you have a child together

To decide if you are in "a relationship of some permanence", the law considers many things. Some of these things could be:

  • whether you live together
  • your personal and sexual habits
  • how you behave with each other in public
  • whether you support each other or your children financially
  • whether other people see you as a couple

OW and ODSP use the family law definition of spouse in their rules about support payments.

They use a different definition to decide if you are eligible for assistance. For more information, see CLEO's resource Social assistance rules about couples: What you need to know if you live with someone.

Making "reasonable efforts" to get spousal support

OW or ODSP can refuse to give you assistance or can reduce or cut off your assistance, if you:

  • might be able to get spousal support, and
  • do not make "reasonable efforts" to get it.

"Reasonable efforts" could include:

  • applying to family court for a support order
  • making sure you give OW or ODSP all the information you have about trying to get support

OW or ODSP will ask for the name of your spouse. They could also ask where that person is and for other information, like:

  • their Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • their employer's name and address
  • how long you lived together and when you separated

If you know this information but do not give it, OW or ODSP can refuse to give you assistance, or reduce or cut off your assistance.