Most people would imagine that when their marriage or de facto relationship ends, so does their financial obligation to maintain their former spouse. However, through an application for spousal maintenance, the Court can order this financial obligation to continue despite the relationship having ended.
Spousal maintenance is when one person is required to continue providing ongoing financial support for their former partner even after their relationship has come to an end.
Before the Court can make an order for spousal maintenance, it must be satisfied that:
- One spouse (the applicant) is unable to adequately meet his or her own reasonable needs; and
- The other spouse (the respondent) has the capacity to pay.
How long will I have to pay spousal maintenance for?
The primary purpose behind spousal maintenance orders is to correct any economic imbalance created by one spouse taking leave from the workforce to raise the parties children.
Orders for spousal maintenance typically last for up to three (3) years. This enables the disadvantaged spouse the opportunity to re-establish themselves independently, gain a qualification if necessary and re-enter the workforce.
At what stage can an application for spousal maintenance be made?
An application for spousal maintenance can be made as a stand alone application or can be made concurrently with orders for property settlement.
If the situation is one of urgency, sections 77 and 90SG of the Family Law Act 1975 enable the spouse requiring maintenance to apply for the payment of periodic or lump sum payments. It should however be noted that the value of these payments will be determined by what the Court considers just and reasonable.
Is there a time limit on when an application be made?
There are time limitations in place that restrict how long you have to make an application for spousal maintenance. If you were married to your former spouse, the legislation allows for applications to be made for a period of 12 months from the date that your divorce becomes final.
For de facto couples, applications must be made within two years of the date of separation.