Spousal Maintenance in Australian Family Law

Spousal maintenance is a form of financial support provided by one party to a marriage to the other (or following divorce) in circumstances where they are unable to support themselves adequately.

Spousal maintenance can help ensure that the dependent spouse can maintain a reasonable standard of living following the end of the relationship. 

The purpose of spousal maintenance is to ensure that the dependent spouse is not left in a state of financial hardship following the end of the relationship. De facto maintenance is financial support paid by a party to a de facto relationship to their former de facto partner where the de facto relationship has broken down, and they are unable to support themselves adequately.

Can I receive (or do I have to pay) spousal maintenance?

The Court will consider the needs of an applicant and the respondent’s capacity to pay. Under Australian family law, a person may be eligible for spousal maintenance if they are unable to support themselves adequately after the separation or divorce.

To be eligible, the dependant spouse must satisfy the Court that they have a genuine need for financial support and that the other spouse can pay. 

The Court will consider a range of factors relating to both parties when determining whether spousal maintenance should be paid, including:

  • The income, assets, and financial resources of each spouse
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The earning capacity of each spouse and ability to work
  • The responsibilities of each spouse for the care of any children under 18 years old (or adult children who are disabled) and with whom the children live
  • The suitable standard of living of the parties
  • If the marriage has affected the dependant party’s ability to earn an income
  • The duration of the marriage or de facto relationship

How is spousal maintenance calculated?

The amount of spousal maintenance payable will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. There is no set formula for calculating spousal maintenance in Australia. Spousal maintenance can be paid as a lump sum or on an ongoing basis. 

The Court will consider which method of payment is most appropriate based on the specific circumstances of the case.

How long does spousal maintenance last?

The duration of spousal maintenance will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. In some cases, spousal maintenance may be payable for a limited period to enable the dependent spouse to become financially self-sufficient.

In other cases, spousal maintenance may be payable for a more extended period, particularly where the dependent spouse is unlikely to become financially self-sufficient due to age, health, or other factors. 

If you are divorced, you must apply for spousal maintenance within 12 months of the divorce order taking effect. You are not entitled to spousal maintenance if you marry another person unless the Court orders otherwise. 

If you are considering seeking spousal maintenance or if you are being asked to pay maintenance, it is important to seek legal advice from an experienced family lawyer.

Our family law team can help you better understand your rights and responsibilities under Australian family law and help you navigate the complex legal issues involved in spousal maintenance. 

At Tajik Lawyers, we will ensure that your rights and interests are protected throughout the process.