When a relationship breaks down, questions will often arise around spousal maintenance and ongoing financial support.
This article explains all you need to know about spousal maintenance.
If you are in need of any assistance in this matter, please contact Times Lawyers and speak to an experienced spousal maintenance lawyer.
What does spousal maintenance mean?
This is the responsibility that you or your ex-partner will have, after your separation, to financially support the other person.
In very general terms, if you are unable to financially support yourself after separation, then your ex-partner might have to pay spousal maintenance to support you. This is because, under the Family Law Act, your spouse has a responsibility to financially assist you if you don’t earn enough to support your daily expenses (and vice versa).
It is sometimes incorrectly confused with property division. This is where the assets shared during the relationship are divided after separation.
Do I qualify for Spousal Maintenance?
Whether or not you qualify for the maintenance depends on many different reasons. Below is a list of some general reasons which help with your eligibility:
- Is there a significant difference in income between the parties at the time of separation;
- Are you the carer of your young children or a disabled child;
- Have you been away from the workforce for a number of years? – including due to you needing to look after your children at home, and therefore making you impossible to find a job again;
- Are you able to earn sufficiently for living;
- Your age and your health;
- What is a suitable standard of living for you;
- Has the marriage affected your earning capacity?
Our spousal maintenance lawyer will have an interview with you to understand your circumstance and advise whether you would qualify.
How do I apply for Spousal Maintenance?
Our spousal maintenance lawyer will apply to the Court on your behalf. We will lodge an application for you at Court, with the relevant attachments such as an Affidavit and Financial Statement. It is important that you first seek enough legal advice before taking any litigation action, to make sure that you’re making the right choice.
We recommend that we attempt to resolve any disputes, outside of court, before applying to the Court for the maintenance. This will be done by our spousal maintenance lawyer through an agreement without going to court by.
A direct agreement is almost always a better option compared to court litigation. However, you need to beware of the time limits involved.
Time Limits for spousal maintenance
You have 12 months from your divorce date to apply to the Court for a spousal maintenance order. Your divorce date is the date your divorce order is finalised by the Court.
If you were in a de-facto relationship, you have 2 years from the date your de-factor relationship ended to apply to the Court for spousal maintenance.
Keeping within your time limit is very important. If you run out of time, the Court has the discretion to refuse you from applying for an order. In some circumstances, we can ask the Court for approval to apply out of time. However, this is more complicated, time-consuming, and more expensive. If you need a spousal maintenance lawyer, make sure you leave enough time and avoid knocking at your lawyer’s door 1 week before the deadline!
How long does spousal maintenance last?
Generally, there is no limit as to how long a spousal maintenance order, or a spousal maintenance agreement, lasts.
However, the maintenance order will end if one party dies, or if you or your ex-partner remarries (there are exceptions).
If you have a spousal maintenance order or a spousal maintenance agreement in place, and you remarry with a new partner, you should inform your ex-partner. If you enter into a new de-facto relationship, it doesn’t automatically mean that the Order stops to take effect, but the Court will take that into consideration, as well as your new financial and cohabitation circumstance.
The Court also has powers to terminate, pause or change a maintenance order.