Sponsorship Agreements and Spousal Support

Hello, my name is Bo Luan and I am a lawyer with the Feldstein Family Law Group.

Today, I want to make you aware of the very serious family law responsibilities involved when you sponsor a spouse to immigrate to Canada.

When you sponsor a person’s immigration to Canada, you must sign an undertaking (or Sponsorship Agreement) – effectively, a legally-binding promise to the government.

This undertaking commits you to providing the person’s basic requirements including food, clothing, shelter, fuel, utilities, household supplies, personal requirements, and other goods and services, including dental care, eye care, and other health needs not provided by public health care.

That’s a big commitment.

In essence, you assume responsibility to make sure your sponsored spouse will not have to rely on any public welfare programs during the commitment period. If you fail to provide the promised necessities and your spouse is forced to rely on public welfare programs, you have agreed to reimburse the Canadian government for the cost of that assistance.

This obligation usually continues for three years, starting on the day on your sponsored spouse becomes a permanent resident of Canada. Sponsorship agreements can vary, though, and if you have questions about the immigration side of your case you should seek out and contact an immigration lawyer.

But what if your marriage breaks down while the sponsorship agreement is still in place?

In some cases involving very short marriages, courts have used the duration of the sponsorship agreement itself as the appropriate duration of support. In other words, spousal support would be owed until the end of the commitment period.

Some courts have also ordered higher levels of spousal support than would normally be required by family law. This is because by signing the sponsorship undertaking, you have already committed to provide your spouse with all of the basic necessities of life – which is a higher level of commitment than appears in more typical cases.

However, this may not apply if the would-be recipient is already financially secure. For example, suppose your separated spouse is employed, has a stable place of residence, and is otherwise at no genuine risk of needing social assistance. In that case, the sponsorship – which is all about keeping your spouse off social assistance – may not be as strong a factor. The Judge may decide that the usual spousal support rules should apply instead.

Every case has its own unique factors, and many rules and exceptions have been developed by judges – there is no single statute which holds all the answers. It is therefore very difficult, or even impossible, to know in advance what a judge would do in any particular case. It is therefore important that parties consult with a lawyer to determine appropriate support provisions, even in a typical case.

But in cases where one spouse sponsored the other to immigrate, it is even more crucial to seek legal advice. Many factors must be considered to determine the amount of support which will be paid and the duration of that support.

If you would like to learn more about how these issues may affect your family law case, please visit our website at www.separation.ca or call us at 905-581-7222 to schedule a free initial consultation. Thank you for watching.