What to do When You Can’t Afford to Pay the Bills

Sometimes after separation one partner may have difficulty financially supporting themselves. In these cases, the Court has the power to order that your former partner pay your reasonable living expenses, if they are able to do so.

What is Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is financial support provided by one partner to the other partner to enable them to meet their reasonable living expenses. It is different to child support, which is payment to cover the reasonable living expenses of the children.
Spousal Maintenance can take various forms, including:

Am I Eligible to get Spousal Maintenance? Might I be Obliged to Pay Spousal Maintenance?

Essentially, one party needs to be unable to meet their reasonable living expenses and the other party must have capacity to pay those reasonable living expenses.

Therefore, spousal maintenance is often relevant in circumstances where one party has a high income or holds most of the assets in their sole name, and their former partner cannot meet their own reasonable living expenses due to having a lower income earning capacity or an inability to access assets of the relationship.

Do I Have to go to Court to get Spousal Maintenance?

As with many aspects of family law, if you and your former partner can reach an agreement about maintenance then you do not need to go to Court.

However, in our experience there is often sharp disagreement between people about whether there exists a legitimate need for spousal maintenance and also whether the other partner has capacity to pay it.

If you cannot reach an agreement, the only way to obtain spousal maintenance is to seek an Order from the Court.

What Sort of Spousal Maintenance Order Might the Court Make?

A spousal maintenance Order might include:

  1. That one partner pay to the other partner a lump sum amount on a once-off basis.
  2. That one partner pay to the other partner a smaller sum to be paid regularly (weekly, fortnightly, monthly etc).
  3. That one partner provide a vehicle to the other.
  4. That one partner make arrangements for suitable accommodation for the other partner.
  5. That one partner pay certain expenses, such as health insurance, loan or mortgage repayments, or specific bills, of the other party.

The Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court both have jurisdiction to hear matters of spousal maintenance.