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Spousal Maintenance

In many circumstances, a separation or divorce can lead to one party experiencing financial difficulty in relation to their ongoing living expenses. Our Family Lawyers will provide you with expert advice and guidance to ensure that you are taking appropriate steps to be protected and have funds available to continue taking care of yourself.

What is spousal maintenance?

Under the Family Law Act 1975, spousal maintenance is an ongoing financial payment made by one partner to a former partner to assist with their reasonable living expenses, if they cannot meet their expenses from their own income or assets, after divorce or separation.

 

It is intended to allow that person to be able to receive financial support from their former partner so that they can re-train, upskill, or re-enter the workforce, so that they may be able to adequately support themselves in the future.

How is spousal maintenance different to child support?

Spousal maintenance is separate and in addition to child support payment. Child support is paid for the benefit of the child from the relationship, whereas spousal maintenance is usually for the spouse, who may be a stay at home parent, or not earning any income.

When is spousal maintenance awarded?

There are certain criteria that a person has to establish before they are eligible to receive spousal maintenance. The Court can only make an order if:

  • One partner is unable to meet his/her own needs; and
  • The other partner has the capacity to pay for these needs.

How much spousal maintenance is appropriate?

There is no fixed percentage to determine how much spousal maintenance, if any should be paid. The amount paid is dependent on the specific circumstances of the parties. It is necessary to consider:

  • Age;
  • Health;
  • Ability to work;
  • Income;
  • Assets;
  • Standard of living; and
  • Whether the marriage/relationship has affected your ability to work.

 

The Court also considers what amount is necessary for the receiving partner to achieve a reasonable standard of living, that is not necessarily the same standard of living the partner was living prior to the separation.

Are there any time limits to apply for spousal maintenance?

Yes, time limits do apply to make an application for spousal maintenance.

 

For married couples, you must make an application within 12 months of the divorce becoming final.

 

For de-facto couples, you must make an application within two (2) years of the separation.

 

If you are concerned about payment of spousal support or are unsure as to whether you may be entitled to such payments, please do not hesitate to contact one of our family lawyers today.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you cannot reach an agreement for your former partner to voluntarily pay you spousal maintenance, then you can formally apply for spousal maintenance by applying to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for an order of spousal maintenance (in addition to property settlement or parenting orders).

Spousal maintenance is typically for a short period of time, however, it can be for a longer period depending on individual circumstances. The Court will assess the ability of the potential recipient to take care of themselves financially.

If you marry another person or commence a de-facto relationship, the Court will assess your financial situation and consider the financial circumstances. An ex-spouse or partner who is paying maintenance may make an application for the spousal maintenance payments to be amended.

No, you can apply for spousal maintenance from the moment of separation.

You do not need to be married to be eligible to apply for spousal maintenance.

Typically, the receiving party is not required to pay tax on the payments received for spousal maintenance.

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