Spousal maintenance

There are sometimes circumstances where one party is required to continue to “financially support” the other party following separation and/or divorce, even after a property settlement has been finalised. You may have heard this referred to as “alimony”, but in Australian Family Law, it is known as spousal maintenance.

An order for spousal maintenance is different to an order for property settlement.

Spousal maintenance may take the form of a periodic payments (for example, each fortnight or each month), a lump sum payment, or direct payments of expenses such mortgage repayments or household bills.

For maintenance to be paid, it must be the case that the party receiving the maintenance is unable to support their reasonable expenses and has a “need” for support, and the other party has the capacity to meet that need. It is not a level of “bare minimum”, but rather a level that is reasonable in all the circumstances (including the standard of living of the parties during the relationship).

Unless ordered to be paid in a lump sum, requirement for maintenance can rise and fall with the need of the person to be maintained and the financial capacity of the person paying the maintenance.

It is usually the case that spousal maintenance does not exist indefinitely. The intention of spousal maintenance is to provide the party in receipt of the maintenance time to build or re-build their skill-set and develop a way to financially support themselves.

Spousal maintenance is determined on a case by case basis and you should seek advice if you think you may be entitled to spousal maintenance or an application for spousal maintenance has been or could be made against you.

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