What to know about spousal maintenance

Date: Oct 08, 2014

One of the most important aspects of family law are the responsibilities that parties have towards one another when they enter into a serious relationship. Not only is this an important factor in divorce financial settlements, it can also be called upon while two parties are still legally joined.

Spousal support can be received by anyone who is unable to support themselves independently of their partner or former partner. For example, if only one partner is earning in a relationship and the two then separate, the earning spouse may be required to pay for the support of their former partner, according to the Family Law Courts.

These financial payments can continue long after a couple have separated and/or divorced, meaning that they should be taken seriously be both parties. While these payments are essentially indefinite, they will end in some situations, such as if the dependent partner enters into a new relationship.

When assigning an amount of spousal support, the courts will consider a range of different factors. Along with the financial position of both parties, spousal maintenance will also include the age and health of both parties and what is considered a suitable standard of living for the recipient. The primary care of any children under the age of 18 will also be taken into consideration at this time.

De facto partnerships are also eligible for spousal support. In making a decision whether or not to provide an allowance in this situation, the courts will factor in conditions like the nature and duration of a relationship, as well as the degree of financial dependence.

While spousal maintenance is a common consideration when a marriage dissolves, there are other areas that also need to be taken into account. For example, any shared property will need to be shared between both parties. Financial investments like superannuation will also need to be taken into consideration by both partners at this time. 

Finally, it is important to remember that spousal maintenance is not automatic and you must apply to the courts in order to be eligible for these payments. Applications must be received by the courts within 12 months of a divorce being finalised, or within 24 months of a de facto relationship ending.

If you would like to apply for spousal support, or need assistance during the breakup of a relationship, it pays to consult a divorce lawyer. They will be able to advise on the different forms of support you might be able to apply for.