If you’re getting a divorce you may have come across the concept of spousal maintenance. It’s a payment you may be entitled to from your ex in order to support you in your new life financially. A lot of our clients ask us how long spousal maintenance is paid for, as it can be helpful when making plans for your future.
Find out more about what spousal maintenance is, how long spousal maintenance is paid for, and if the amount of spousal maintenance can change over time, in our blog below.
What Is Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal maintenance is the financial support provided by a person to an ex-spouse or ex-partner after divorcing or separating. Spousal maintenance is however, totally different to child maintenance.
Although there is no automatic entitlement to spousal maintenance, under Australian Family Law, parties have a legal obligation to support each other, as far as possible, during and after the divorce or separation. The same law applies to married couples and de facto relationships.
An ex-partner or ex-spouse, who can prove that they are unable to financially sustain themselves following a separation or divorce, is eligible to apply for spousal maintenance.
The amount payable is based on a wide range of criteria, amongst which, being the length of the relationship, the receiver’s age, health, needs and ability to earn, and the payer’s ability to pay. The reason for the breakdown of the relationship is however, not taken into consideration.
Spousal maintenance can be paid in a number of ways. It could be monthly or weekly payments or a once off lump sum, as agreed by both parties. It could also include the use of a vehicle or home or paying for any other household expenses, as agreed upon by both parties or by the Court.
In most cases, where the divorce or separation was done through mediation, the terms and amounts of the spousal maintenance, would form part of the Consent Order or the Binding Financial Agreement as part of the overall settlement.
Read more about what spousal maintenance is and how it works.
How Long Is Spousal Maintenance Paid For?
The period that spousal maintenance is to be paid can either be:
- indefinite, or
- for a specified period of time ending on a set date
This will be dependent on the individual circumstances of each case.
The exact period would also form part of the negotiations and the overall settlement and will be included in the Consent Order or Binding Financial Agreement.
Will I Still Receive Spousal Maintenance If I Start A New Relationship?
The quick answer to that would be no, but a lot would depend on the nature of the new relationship. Once you remarry, you will no longer be entitled to receive any spousal maintenance.
But, if you enter into a de facto relationship, there may be a possibility that spousal maintenance payments could continue to be payable. The Court will consider the nature of the financial relationship with your new partner and determine whether you are able to financially and adequately sustain yourself.
Can The Amount Of Spousal Maintenance Paid Change Over Time?
Financial situations change for everybody and there may come a time for a need to increase, decrease or even terminate spousal maintenance payments.
For instance, if the payer was to lose their earning capacity and ability to pay, through retrenchment or illness, an Order of the Court can be made to decrease or suspend the payments temporarily or permanently.
It could also be that that the receiver has come into some unexpected funds, such as receiving an inheritance or finding a new job that increases their income substantially. The payer may then be eligible to apply to decrease payments or suspend them completely.
The rules, however, do work both ways and the Family Court has the authority to increase it if the situation warrants it, or payments can also be increased to keep up with the ever-rising cost of living.
What Happens If My Ex Stops Making Spousal Maintenance Payments?
If your ex stops making spousal maintenance payments without permission, you can file an applicationwith the Court to order your ex-spouse to pay all overdue payments. A good family lawyer can help you with the paperwork and filing in order to ensure everything is done correctly.
The Court will then consider whether your ex has a valid reason for stopping the payments, but it must be stressed that stopping spousal maintenance payments without a valid reason, is an extremely serious breach of Court Orders.
If your ex has stopped making payments, without notifying you, you need to apply to the Court immediately, as it is extremely difficult to enforce arrears that are older than 12 months. Get in touch with our family lawyers in Perth now for a free 15-minute phone consultation.
Do I Have To Pay Tax On Spousal Maintenance I Receive?
Spousal maintenance payments are not regarded as taxable income and need not be declared. Only Centrelink benefits have to be declared. However, we always recommend that you obtain advice from an accountant in relation to potential tax consequences of any payments you receive.
For more about spousal maintenance, read what is spousal maintenance and how to get spousal maintenance – if you’d like to speak directly with one of our experienced family lawyers in Perth, you can book a free 15 minute phone consultation online today!