Are you wondering if you might be entitled to apply for spousal maintenance? Many people are not aware of this form of support so in this blog, we’re going to talk you through what is spousal maintenance and other common questions about this support payment.
What is spousal maintenance?
Just as child maintenance is for the support of children after a divorce or separation, spousal maintenance is the financial support provided by a person to an ex-spouse or ex-partner. Child and spousal maintenance are however, two totally different matters.
Who can apply for spousal maintenance in Australia?
Under Australian Family Law, an ex-partner or ex-spouse, who is unable to financially sustain themselves is eligible to apply for spousal maintenance. The same law applies to married couples and de facto relationships.
When is spousal maintenance payable in Australia?
There is a wide range of criteria that must be met before spousal maintenance is payable in Australia.
For example, caring for children born out the relationship, being unable to find employment, health reasons, duration of the relationship, possible property settlement or other financial agreement, etc.
Another criterion taken into account, is whether the needs of the receiver are reasonable, as well as the payer’s ability to pay the maintenance.
As hard as it may seem for some, fault of the breakdown of the relationship is never taken into account when the Court considers whether spousal maintenance is payable.
How is spousal maintenance usually paid?
It 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. Also it’s important to note that that spousal maintenance does not need to be declared to the Australian Taxation Office and is not taxed.
Are there time limits to apply for spousal maintenance?
Married couples have 12 months from the date of the divorce to apply for spousal maintenance, while de facto couples have 24 months from the date of separation. On rare occasions when the applicants can prove special grounds, the Court may grant more time.
Do I have to go to court to get spousal maintenance?
If spousal maintenance has been agreed upon by both parties, the terms would be included in the Consent Order or the Binding Financial Agreement as part of the overall settlement. There will be no need then for either party to go to Court.
Can I get spousal maintenance if we were not married?
Yes. The same laws for married couples apply to de facto relationships.
Is there an online spousal maintenance calculator?
While there are some online calculators for child support, there is no accurate online spousal maintenance calculator available.
The reason is that there are far too many possibilities that need to be considered for each case.
If you’re interested in the child support calculators, they can be found here:
How can I work out how much spousal maintenance I might get?
As each divorce has its own unique set of circumstances, it is virtually impossible to work out how much spousal maintenance one could expect to get without detailed legal advice from a qualified family lawyer.
A detailed budget of both parties must be drawn up showing all incomes and reasonable expenses over the next 6-12 months, for the Court to assess and make the final call.
How can I apply for spousal maintenance?
A spousal maintenance application, containing the information and supporting evidence mentioned above, can be lodged in the Family Court of Western Australia. It can also include the final divorce and property settlement.
Get more information about applying for spousal maintenance as part of a financial order here.
Do I need a family lawyer to apply for spousal maintenance?
Let’s face it, most people are not well versed with Australian Family Law, and as you would have probably realised by now, there are far too many factors that need to be considered, before applying for spousal maintenance.
There are so many things can easily go wrong. And when things can go wrong, they usually do. It is therefore strongly recommended that you consult an experienced family lawyer before tackling such a complicated and important task.