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Spousal support when you are on OW or ODSP

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Trying to get spousal support

In family law, your spouse is someone of any sex or gender who you:

  • are married to
  • have been living with as a couple for at least 3 years
  • have been living with in “a relationship of some permanence” and the two of you have a child together

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 qualify for money from OW or ODSP.

Making "easonable efforts" to get spousal support

OW or ODSP expects you to make "reasonable efforts" to get any spousal support that you might be able to get. If you do not do this, they can refuse, reduce, or cut off your money or other assistance they give you.

Your efforts could include:

  • getting legal advice
  • applying to family court for a support order
  • giving OW or ODSP all of the information you have about your attempts to get support

OW or ODSP can also refuse, reduce, or cut off assistance if you do not give them information that you have about your spouse.

It's important to speak to a lawyer before asking for a court order or signing an agreement with your spouse.

When you might not have to try to get support

You may not have to try to get spousal support if your spouse:

  • has had no contact with you for a while, and
  • cannot be found.

Other times you may not have to try to get spousal support include when:

  • you cannot go to family court for medical reasons
  • your spouse:
    • is violent towards you or your child
    • cannot pay support right now, for example, because they are in jail
    • is in another country where they cannot be forced to pay support that was ordered by a court in Ontario

Even if OW or ODSP told you that you do not need to try to get spousal support, they can review that decision later. But they should tell you when they plan to do this. It is usually in 3 to 12 months.

In the meantime, you must tell OW or ODSP if anything about the situation changes.

They can also decide that they do not need to review your situation ever again. For example, they might do this if:

  • your spouse cannot be found after a reasonably long search
  • there is an ongoing risk of your spouse being violent towards you or your child

OW or ODSP can ask for proof of your situation. For example, to show that your spouse was violent, you might need a police report or a letter from a doctor.