The Family Law Act imposes a responsibility on the financially stronger party to support their former spouse or partner if they cannot meet their needs. Such support is referred to as spousal maintenance or de facto partner maintenance.

Spousal maintenance may be paid in the form of one lump sum payment or regular payments over a period of time, such time to be determined by the Court. Payments will usually cease when the receiving spouse remarries or is in a new de facto relationship and no longer requires the support.  

The Court will consider two factors when being asked to make an Order for spousal maintenance:

  1. Whether the spouse requesting maintenance is unable to meet their financial needs; and
  2. Whether the spouse being asked to pay maintenance has the financial capacity to do so.

The Court will also consider the following about each party:

  1. Their age and health;
  2. Their income, property, and financial resources;
  3. Their ability to work;
  4. What is a suitable standard of living; and
  5. If the marriage has affected their ability to earn an income.

There are time limits for making an application for spousal maintenance. Married couples have 12 months after their divorce to apply, and de facto couples have 2 years after separation. A request for spousal maintenance is usually made when seeking orders regarding marital property.

Spousal maintenance is different from child support and a Court may order a party to pay spousal maintenance in addition to child support. The Family Courts do not make orders regarding child support as the Department of Human Services is responsible for managing child support.

Please note the answers provided are for your general information only and we ask you to call our office on 02 6336 1485 to obtain detailed legal advice for your individual situation.

Lauren Ryan | Family Law Solicitor