Spousal Maintenance

Spousal Maintenance

It does not matter if you were married or in a de facto relationship. You may be entitled to spousal maintenance.

Spousal maintenance is not child support and it is not child maintenance.

Spousal maintenance is financial support given by one spouse to another, usually when a relationship ends and for a period of time, so that the person can adequately support themselves.

What does a court consider?

A spouse is not automatically entitled to maintenance.  For a spouse to get maintenance they usually need to apply to the court and show that:

1. They cannot adequately support themselves; and

2. The other person is financially able to support them.

In deciding the application, the court will look at many factors including:

  • The age and health of each person
  • Both spouses’  financial positions
  • Who has the care of any children under 18 years of age
  • Any commitments that each has to support others (new partners, step-children, elderly relatives, etc)
  • The standard of living of both spouses
  • How long you were married for and the effect it had.

Just because you get government benefits, does not mean that you may not be eligible for spousal maintenance. For information on spousal maintenance and Centrelink benefits see here.

Are there time limits?

If you are considering applying for spousal maintenance, it is important that you get legal advice quickly as it is best to apply as close to separation as possible.

You cannot apply for spousal maintenance without the court’s permission if:

  1. It is more than 2 years after separation from a de facto relationship;
  2. It is more than 12 months after you got divorced.

Spousal maintenance is usually only paid for a short period after separation (eg. 1-3 years). The main reason is to enable a spouse to get some skills and a job so that they can support themselves in the future.

How does spousal maintenance get paid?

It is usually paid in weekly or fortnightly instalments but it can be paid as a lump sum.

How do I apply for spousal maintenance?

If you and your spouse cannot agree, you can apply to the court:

  • before,
  • at the same time or
  • after there has been a division of property.

It is quite common for a spouse to apply to the court and ask for orders to divide up the property and for spousal maintenance. The court will usually decide the property division first, and then the issue of spousal maintenance, unless there is some urgency or need for financial support before the property is divided.