Spousal maintenace payments: what you need to know
Discover the basics of spousal maintenance payments in divorce/separation. Learn about eligibility, time limits, and the impact of new relationships. Seek legal advice for personalized guidance.
Navigating the financial aspects of a divorce or separation can be challenging, especially when it comes to spousal maintenance payments. Understanding the basics of spousal maintenance is crucial in ensuring a fair and reasonable outcome for both parties involved. In this article, we will provide you with important insights into spousal maintenance, including its definition, your rights and obligations, and how it affects your post-separation financial situation.

What is Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal maintenance refers to the financial support paid by one spouse to the other following a divorce or separation. It is designed to help maintain a reasonable standard of living for the receiving spouse, particularly if they are unable to adequately support themselves. In Australia, spousal maintenance is regulated by the Family Law Act 1975, which allows either party to seek financial assistance if they are unable to meet their reasonable expenses.

Determining the Need for Spousal Maintenance
When assessing the need for spousal maintenance, the court considers various factors. These factors include the financial needs of the applicant and the respondent's capacity to provide financial support.
The Court considers the following about both of you:
  • Age
  • Health
  • Income
  • Property
  • Financial resources
  • Earning capacity
  • Impact of marriage on income potential
Additionally, the court considers the living arrangements of any children involved.

Eligibility and Time Limits
To be eligible for spousal maintenance, you must demonstrate a genuine financial need and an inability to meet your reasonable expenses. Each case is evaluated individually, taking into consideration the duration of the marriage, contributions made by each party, and the impact of the divorce on earning capacity. It is important to note that spousal maintenance applications can be made even if you are not divorced or still married, but specific time limits apply. For divorced individuals, the application must be made within 12 months of the divorce order, while for those with a nullity decree, the application should be made within 12 months of the decree. De facto maintenance applications must be made within two years of the breakdown of the de facto relationship.

What if you start a new relationship?
If you enter into a new marriage or de facto relationship, your entitlement to spousal maintenance may be affected. Generally, if you marry another person, you are not entitled to receive spousal maintenance unless the court orders otherwise. This is outlined in sections 82 (for spousal maintenance) and 90SJ (for de facto maintenance) of the Family Law Act 1975.

If you enter into a new de facto relationship, the court will consider the financial relationship between you and your new partner when determining your ability to support yourself adequately. This means that if your new partner is providing financial support, it may affect your eligibility for spousal maintenance.

It's important to note that these matters are assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account individual circumstances and the overall financial situation. If you have concerns or questions about how starting a new relationship may impact your spousal maintenance entitlement, it is recommended to seek legal advice.

Seeking Legal Advice
Understanding your rights and obligations regarding spousal maintenance is crucial during the divorce or separation process. While legal representation is not mandatory, seeking professional legal advice can provide you with the guidance you need to navigate the complexities of family law. It is important to remember that the information provided in this article is general in nature, and seeking personalized legal advice is recommended to address your specific circumstances.

If you have any questions or require further assistance, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation.