Family Law – Spousal Maintenance in Australia

Couples who divorce or separate usually try to support each other during difficult times. When a need exists for care of children and former partners, it’s natural for obligations to continue even after divorce or separation. Untangling long-term relationships takes time, potentially creating financial difficulty, so the Family Law Act 1975 provides opportunity for spousal maintenance in Australia to help people get back on their feet.

What is spousal maintenance in Australia?

In Australia, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court deal with spousal maintenance applications. Spousal maintenance and de facto partner maintenance both provide support for people who are unable to financially support themselves. In Australia, this includes those in transition from same-sex marriages and partnerships.

Spouse Maintenance: financial support from husband or wife, paid to their former spouse after separation or divorce.

De facto partner maintenance: financial support from a de facto partner, paid to their former de facto partner.

Spousal maintenance laws are relatively uniform across Australia. There is also legal assistance available for people of international origin who are undergoing a difficult divorce or separation with an Australian. In most instances, the tailored guidance of Taylor & Scott Family Law experts is the first step in achieving ideal spousal maintenance outcomes.

How is spousal maintenance calculated in Australia?

In Australia, spousal maintenance is calculated according to the applicant’s (dependent) needs and the respondent’s ability to pay. If the respondent doesn’t have the financial means to assist, spousal maintenance can’t be paid, and other legal assistance such as child support or property settlement should possibly be considered.

In many cases, Taylor & Scott Lawyers can help you and your former spouse or partner avoid complications. We will assist you in drafting a legally binding separation agreement that future-proofs the needs of everyone involved. If you do choose to pursue spousal maintenance, considerations will include:

  • Your age and health status
  • Your capacity to work or undertake training
  • A standard of living considered suitable for your situation
  • Your individual and combined incomes, including property and financial assets
  • If your capacity to earn has been hindered due to your relationship responsibilities

How long must you pay spousal maintenance in Australia?

Spousal maintenance is usually paid for a relatively short period of time while a person gets back on their feet. Spousal maintenance applications must be made within 12 months of a divorce being finalised, while de facto partners have 2 years to make an application after the breakdown of the relationship.

In many cases, spousal maintenance payments are a safety net while waiting for finalisation of a property settlement. Payments can also continue for a defined period after property settlement. Depending on your needs and circumstances, spousal maintenance payments can be regular ongoing payments or a lump sum.

Do I have to pay spousal maintenance if my partner is not Australian?

If you have been in a genuine married or de facto relationship with a partner from overseas, they are afforded rights under Australian law. De facto and married partners are subject to legally binding obligations and conditions, including the right of non-Australians to claim spousal maintenance from an Australian citizen.

For most people, spousal maintenance is part of the bigger picture, and a necessary step to ensure property settlement is fair. Spousal maintenance in Australia can also be paid by lump sum in lieu of spousal assets to be shared, such as boats or cars. With so much to think about, it can be difficult to focus on the future, so if you require a solid spousal separation agreement, support for making a spousal maintenance application, or backing in negotiations with opposing legal teams and others, contact Taylor & Scott Lawyers today.

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