Spousal maintenance is financial support payable by one partner/former partner to the other. The Family Law Act provides for maintenance for both marriage and de facto relationships.
Spousal maintenance in Australia
The topic of spousal maintenance in Australia often arises at separation if one party is unable to support themselves.
And whether you’re the one seeking spousal maintenance payments, or the one asked to pay it, the topic is often a complex and emotional one.
When a relationship breaks down, you will need to adjust to a new way of living. As a result, this may included added pressures of living on a single income, no income or being self supporting if you are paying maintenance.
Common spousal maintenance questions include:
- How long will the spousal payments last?
- What happens if you can no longer afford to pay maintenance?
- Is spousal maintenance genuinely required?
Concerns that arise from the party paying spousal maintenance frequently include:
- How liable am I?
- What risks do I face?
Learn how we can help you understand your rights and obligations.
Spousal maintenance in Australia: The fundamentals
Spousal maintenance is not automatic
Spousal maintenance is paid if one party is unable to support themselves and the other party can reasonably afford to pay it.
When is spousal maintenance considered?
Maintenance payments are considered once the terms of the property settlement are known in each case.
How long will spousal payments go for?
Spousal maintenance payments are generally confined to a specific amount payable, for a specified time. This is usually until the receiving party can support themselves financially again. In some circumstances, spousal maintenance may be ordered to be paid on a permanent basis.
Do we have to go to court?
It’s always best to try and reach an out of court agreement for spousal support before commencing legal proceedings. If court is the way forward, you’ll need evidence about your need and capacity to pay it.
What factors does the court consider when making a decision?
The court will consider a range of factors. This will include your age, health, and what is a suitable standard of living in deciding maintenance payments.
What is the extent of spousal maintenance payments?
The extent of maintenance payments will depend on what the other party can afford to pay once they pay their own reasonable living expenses.
What about the financial risks?
There are ways to minimise the risk of non payment for the recipient and overpayment for the paying party.
Read our simple guide on the fundamentals of spousal maintenance here.
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Related spousal maintenance FAQs
You are eligible to apply for maintenance at any time after you have separated from your partner. If you were married you must make any application for spousal maintenance within 12 months of your divorce being finalised; de facto partners have two years from the breakdown of their relationship to apply.
The court will consider a number of factors including:
your age, health, income, and ability to work;
your financial resources and what is a suitable standard of living, and
if the marriage/partnership has affected your ability to earn an income.
Every case is different and it is important to seek legal advice if you are going through the process of seeking maintenance, or if a relationship is ending and you think you may be required to make spousal maintenance payments.
You will receive maintenance payments if you are unable to support yourself following the breakdown of a marriage or de facto partnership. Similarly, if your financial situation changes your right to payments may end. Your right to regular payments of maintenance will usually end in various circumstances including if:
You remarry or enter a new de facto relationship where your financial situation improves;
You no longer have to care for children in the same capacity; or
If your ability to earn a wage improves.
On payment of the sum to be paid or the period of time in which the payments were to be paid.
No you do not but the amount of the settlement is considered.
In some instances applications can be made but like any court application there are risks and benefits in doing so.
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