Understanding the Fundamentals of Spousal Maintenance

The legal responsibilities surrounding divorce can be overwhelming to deal with it and difficult to understand, especially when you’re dealing with the emotional side of things at the same time. However, this doesn’t have to be the case when you have the right team of legal experts on your side. To ease your mind, we have developed a simple guide to understanding spousal support, what it is and why you might have to pay it for your ex-partner.


What is spousal support?

In basic terms, spousal support or ‘maintenance’ is when an individual is required to provide ongoing financial support for their former partner following separation or the breakdown of a marriage or defacto relationship. This is done as per the Family Law Act, which states that partners have a duty to support and maintain each other to the extent that they are reasonably able to do so.

It’s important not to confuse spousal support with child support – child support is paid to support any children from the past relationship, while spousal support is intended for the ex-partner specifically. A court can reasonably order that both child support and spousal support are paid simultaneously.

When do you have to pay it?

If an application for Spousal maintenance is made, it must be applied for no later than 12 months after a divorce is finalised or within 2 years of separation for a de facto relationship.  These time limits are only extended in limited situations. It may be granted in cases where one party is unable to meet their reasonable needs and the other is in a financial position where payment is possible.

How is the amount calculated?

The court always aims to make a decision that is fair and equitable for both parties involved. The amount is determined based on a number of factors indicating the financial capacity of both parties, such as:

  • Your income, debts, financial assets and resources.
  • Your health and age.
  • Your ability to earn an income, and whether this has been affected by the marriage or de facto partnership.
  • The suitable standard of living and the reasonable expenses that are likely to be incurred.
  • In the case where children are involved, the court will consider who the children live with.

If you are looking to apply for spousal maintenance, it’s always best to seek legal advice from experienced family lawyers. Contact Australian Family Lawyers today to speak to our dedicated team of family law specialists.

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