If your marriage or de facto relationship ends and one of you is unable to support yourself, Spousal Maintenance payments may come into play.

There are many moving parts to spousal maintenance which govern whether you or your partner are liable to pay it, so it’s a wise move to engage expert legal guidance right at the start.

Put very simply, if you’re in a marriage or de facto relationship that ends, you have an obligation to support the other party, to the extent that you are able, if they are not able to support themselves – particularly if one person’s inability to survive financially is linked to their role in the relationship.

For example, the traditional scenario of one partner being primary ‘bread winner’, and the other being primary ‘care giver’, means the care giver is often without financial means or skills to earn when the relationship ends – even though their contributions are equal in the eyes of the law.

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What factors will feed into your Spousal Maintenance outcome?

Spousal Maintenance – known as De Facto Partner Maintenance if you’re not married – is a simple legal philosophy, but the factors that feed into what defines your obligations to one another can get complex.

In assessing a party’s liability to pay, the Court will consider:

  • Age, health, physical or mental incapacity
  • Income, property and financial assets
  • Ability to work
  • Suitable standards of living
  • If the relationship has affected ability to earn income
  • If there are children of the relationship and with whom the children live

The main things you need to know about Spousal Maintenance:

  • Applications can be made independently or at the same time as property applications
  • Spousal maintenance payments are normally periodic payments over a defined period
  • Other payments can take the form of lump sums, mortgage payments and ad-hoc expenses
  • Urgent applications can be made to the Court if a party needs urgent financial assistance
  • From marriage, applications must be made within 12 months of finalised divorce
  • From de facto, applications must be made within two years of the relationship ending

Remember, Spousal Maintenance is not forever

In recognition of the ‘clean break’ principle in Family Law, Spousal Maintenance payments are not long-term in nature and usually cease upon a specified date or event occurring, such as a party’s remarriage, or forming of another a de facto relationship, or upon obtaining employment or completing study.

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