Spousal Maintenance In Australia
What is spousal maintenance…?
Also known as alimony in other parts of the world is typically paid to a spouse by another higher earning income spouse for a period of time. Under the Family Law Act and Family Court Act WA (if you are in WA), a person has a responsibility to financially assist their spouse or former de facto partner, if that person cannot meet their own reasonable expenses from their personal income or assets. Where the need exists, both parties have an equal duty to support and maintain each other as far as they can. This obligation can continue even after separation and divorce. The extent of the support depends on what the other party can afford to pay. There are two types of maintenance in Australia namely:
Spouse maintenance is financial support paid by a party to a marriage to their former husband or wife in circumstances where they are unable to adequately support themselves; and
De facto partner maintenance is financial support paid by a party to a de facto relationship that has broken down to their former de facto partner in circumstances where they are unable to adequately support themselves.
Contrary to popular belief, spousal maintenance is not only paid to women, it can be paid to a man if the criteria is fulfilled. Spousal Maintenance is not automatic. The Court must be satisfied the Applicant has a need and the Respondent has the capacity to pay for the need. The Court takes into account the following factors:
Age and health of both parties
Ability to work
Income, property and financial resources available
Standard of living
Whether the marriage or relationship has affected a party’s ability to earn an income
Whether a party has care of children under the age of 18 or if the adult children are disabled.
Who should be entitled to Spousal maintenance…?
You are not entitled to maintenance if you marry another person unless the court otherwise orders so. If you start a new de facto relationship the court will take into account, the financial relationship between you and your new de facto partner when considering whether you are able to support yourself adequately.
If you were married, applications for spouse maintenance must be made within 12 months of your divorce becoming final. If you were in a de facto relationship, your applications for de facto partner maintenance must be made within 2 years of the breakdown of your de facto relationship. If you do not apply within these time limits, you will need special permission of a court. This is not always granted, there must be special circumstances for that to happen.