How Does Spousal Maintenance Work?

Law Blog

Movies and TV shows arguably provide a false idea about the financial settlement that follows a divorce. It's not really possible to divorce your partner and then live on the proceeds of the subsequent alimony payments. For starters, alimony is an American term. Australia has its own legal system, and the comparable term is spousal maintenance, although the specifics are considerably different. But in the event of the end of a marriage, how do you know if you're eligible for any form of spousal maintenance?

Not an Automatic Allowance

Spousal maintenance isn't automatically awarded when a divorce is granted. It's not as though the Federal Circuit or Family Law Court of Australia will inevitably grant a certain amount that one party must pay to the other for a predetermined period of time. Your eligibility for financial support from your former spouse depends on a number of factors.

Separate From Child Maintenance Payments

Whether you're eligible or not to receive child maintenance payments from your former spouse is generally judged independently of any spousal maintenance claims. These two forms of maintenance are separate from each other. If you've been granted child maintenance payments, this doesn't necessarily mean that you've also been granted spousal maintenance. There's also the fact that you and your spouse may not have had children together.

Your Actual Needs

In determining your eligibility for spousal maintenance, the first question to consider is—do you actually need it? If you're employed and have a stable financial situation, it's unlikely that a petition for financial support from your former spouse will be granted. This provision is typically reserved for those who are in financial dire straits following the end of their marriage. If you believe that you have a genuine need for spousal maintenance, there are other factors to consider.

Speak to a Lawyer

Given the complexity of the situation, and the fact that this form of maintenance isn't automatically granted, it's wise to consult a solicitor specialising in family law. They'll help you with the specifics and are likely to request detailed information about your taxable income and that of your former spouse (as much as you're able to provide). You'll also need to work out a list of reasonable expenses because it's not as though you can ask for an arbitrary lump sum. A family lawyer can then help you with the application process, keeping in mind that your former spouse and their legal representatives may dispute the claim.

Remember that spousal maintenance isn't generally viewed as an ongoing arrangement. It's made to allow you to maintain your quality of life until such time as you're able to find gainful employment and be financially independent.

Contact a family law firm near you to learn more.


2 February 2022

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