Every spouse is liable to maintain the other in the event that their marriage or de facto relationship breaks down. The Family Court can make an order for one party to pay "spousal maintenance" to the other.
Spousal maintenance is the financial support that one party to a marriage or de facto relationship may be required to pay to the other party after their marriage or de facto relationship has broken down.
Why do I have to pay spousal maintenance?
The Family Court has the power to order one party to pay spousal maintenance to the other party if and only if -
- one person is unable to support himself or herself adequately; and
- the other person is reasonably able to provide such support.
The obligation for spouses to financially support each other does not change in the event of divorce. However there are some strict time limits which apply if you wish to claim maintenance after divorce, or in the case of a de facto relationship, after you separate.
It is important to note that spousal maintenance is not child support. Child support is paid for the benefit of children. The Family Court can order you to pay spousal maintenance in addition to any child support that you or the other party may be required to pay.
What does the Court consider?
There are many reasons why a party to a marriage or de facto relationship may not be able to support himself or herself after separation. These include being unable to work due to age, ill health, lack of skills or a commitment to care for a child or children, under the age of 18 years.
There is no "general rule" as to how much spousal maintenance a person should pay or receive, if any. There is no automatic entitlement to pay or receive spousal maintenance following separation.
Why see Paterson and Dowding?
All cases vary. It is likely that your circumstances will be quite different to those of anyone else you know who may be going through a marriage or de facto relationship breakdown. Before you apply for spousal maintenance, seek the advice of an expert family lawyer so that you can better understand how the law applies to your unique situation.
If you wish to claim spousal maintenance, you should be aware that strict time limits apply. So make an appointment to see us at Paterson and Dowding sooner rather than later, so that we can help protect your financial security.