​What Is Spousal Maintenance After a Divorce?

There are many complicated issues to consider after the breakdown of a relationship. One question that often arises has to do with financial maintenance. 

Who pays what? If one spouse wasn’t working, what happens to them? If one spouse earns a higher income, how will that income be affected?

These are common and important questions to consider during the divorce or separation phase. Spousal maintenance is set up to help ease that financial burden for separating couples. Let’s take a look at how it works. 

What Exactly is Spousal Maintenence?

Spousal maintenance is an agreement between separating couples where one person provides continued financial support to the other, who otherwise may not be able to support themselves. 

This type of financial support is separate from child support. CLW Lawyers suggest that child support is paid for the benefit of the child, whereas spousal maintenance is for the benefit of the spouse, who may have no other means of supporting themselves. In this case, it is possible to receive or pay both spousal maintenance and child support. 

There is also a difference between spousal maintenance and alimony. Alimony is typically a term used in the United States, whereas spousal maintenance is the law in Australia.  

Who is Eligible?

A spouse or a de facto partner can apply for spousal maintenance if they are in need of financial assistance from their partner among separation. That said, a court can only make an order for it under two conditions:

  • One partner must be unable to meet his/her needs, such as in the case of a stay-at-home parent.
  • The other party must have the financial capacity to meet those needs.

Generally, there must be a large gap between the two incomes for spousal maintenance to be considered; a meager difference may not suffice. 

Other factors that the court will consider in such a case include:

  • The person’s age
  • Health status 
  • The receiving party’s ability to work
  • Whether the prior relationship has affected the individual’s ability to earn an income

How Much Spousal Maintenance Is Awarded?

There is no fixed amount of spousal income. Payments made are dependent on the specific circumstances of the parties involved. 

Aside from taking into account the above factors, the court also considers what is necessary for a reasonable standard of living. That standard of living may differ from the standard of living the party lead prior to the separation. 

How Long do Payments Last?

Although the length of time that spousal maintenance payments are made is dependent upon each individual circumstance, it is very rarely a lifelong payment. It is designed to be rehabilitative and help the spouse for a period of time while they’re expected to retrain to enter the workforce. 

Generally, spousal maintenance would not be paid for more than two years. If, however, there’s an instance where the spouse has been out of work for many years or has little capacity to earn income in the future, payments may be ordered for a more extended period of time. 

In the instance where a former partner receiving the payments remarries, the payments are no longer required. Likewise, if you start a new de facto relationship or an unmarried relationship that involves living together on a domestic basis, the court will take that relationship into consideration when determining if you are still eligible for the payments. 

A Wrap-Up

Divorce and separation are tricky. Not only is it met with many emotional hurdles, but there is a lot to consider in terms of finances, children, assets, items, and so much more. 

Depending on the complexity of your case, it may be wise to seek out a family attorney to help make the transition as smooth as possible. 

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