Spousal Maintenance

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

A separation is not easy on both parties. In some cases, after separation one partner may have difficulty financially supporting themselves.

When this happens, 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 not uncommon to consider spousal maintenance especially when partners have very different financial circumstances after separating.

It can be distressing for people when they find themselves in a position where one spouse is struggling financially. This is even more challenging when finances have to be re-arranged at times to come up with money that you simply don’t have. 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:

  • money being paid directly to you
  • bills being paid
  • specific items being made available for your use or benefit, such as a car

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.

This means, that you are eligible for spousal maintenance if 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.

Spousal maintenance may be paid in a lump sum amount, or a regular weekly, fortnightly or monthly amount depending on the circumstances. It can also be for a defined time in some circumstances.

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 spouses are married, they MUST finalise their spousal maintenance, or apply to the Court for the Orders for spousal maintenance within 12 months of the date of divorce.

 If parties were in a defacto relationship, this MUST occur within 2 years of the date of separation.

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

A Spousal Maintenance Order Might include the following?

Still have questions?

Contact us. Call our client engagement team for an appointment with one of our family law team today.