In some cases, the court may order one person (the respondent) to provide ongoing financial support to their former partner (the applicant) after separation or divorce. Typically, spousal maintenance will only occur if the applicant is unable to meet their expenses and the respondent has the capacity to pay.
When deciding whether spousal maintenance is appropriate, the court will take the following matters into consideration:
- Your financial commitments
- The applicant’s ability to work and whether this has been affected by the marriage
- Your age and health
- Whether children live with you or your former partner
When Will a Court Consider Spousal Maintenance?
The most common situations where a need for maintenance may arise include when a former spouse:
- is unable to work due to full-time child care responsibilities;
- lacks the necessary skills to re-enter the workforce due to previous full-time child care responsibilities;
- is the full-time carer of a person with a disability; or
- is physically or mentally incapable of working
Importantly, spousal maintenance is not child support. The purpose of child support is to benefit your children, whereas spousal maintenance will assist your former partner.
Applying for Maintenance
The only way to receive spousal maintenance is by way of agreement or by filing a court application. Applications must be made within 12 months of your divorce being finalised. If you were in a de facto relationship, you must apply within 2 years of separation.
Spousal maintenance will generally continue until remarriage or death. You must apply to the court to have the order changed or discharged. There are various reasons to end spousal maintenance such as:
- a change in child care responsibilities;
- an improved earning capacity; or
- the recipient’s financial situation improves due to a new de-facto relationship