Spousal Maintenance: Case summary Sadlier & Sadlier

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The recent Family Court decision of Sadlier & Sadlier [2015] FamCAFC 130 is a timely reminder about family law spousal maintenance.  It looks at the distinction between “urgentspousal maintenance and “interimspousal maintenance and revisits the applicable legal principles for spousal maintenance in general.

Brief Relevant Facts

The Husband was born in 1978 and was 37 years of age.

The Wife was born in 1985 and was 29 years of age.

The parties’ relationship commenced in approximately 2006 and ended in 2013.

There are two children of the parties’ 7-year relationship, aged 6 and 5 respectively.

The children live with the Wife in the maternal grandmother’s home.

The children spend time with the Husband during weekends.

Issue in Dispute

The Wife filed an application for urgent spousal maintenance from the Husband.

The Husband opposed paying any spousal maintenance to the Wife.

Trial Judge’s Decision

The Trial Judge found that the Wife had “some need” with weekly expenses of $383.00 and the capacity of the Husband to pay was $500.00 per week.

The Husband argued that his income and expenditure was not challenged and the Wife’s expenditure was challenged.

The Trial Judge ordered that the Husband pay the Wife the sum of $500.00 per week for interim spousal maintenance.

The Husband subsequently appealed.

The Appeal

The Husband successfully appealed.

The Family Court noted that it was not clear if the Trial Judge considered the matter by reference to Section 77 of the Family Law Act 1975  as would be required by applications for urgent spousal maintenance.

The Family Court noted that it was more likely that the Trial Judge dealt with the application as one for “interim” spousal maintenance, which is decided according to different criteria.

The Family Court further noted that there was confusion as to whether it was an urgent interim hearing or an interim spousal maintenance hearing and that there was procedural unfairness to the Husband coming to Court to meet an urgent case which somehow was converted into an interim hearing.

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