What is spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is where one partner provides financial support to their ex-partner after a separation.

Who is likely to be entitled?

Spousal maintenance may be payable regardless of whether the parties were married, in a civil union, or in a de facto relationship. 

A person may be entitled to spousal maintenance payments if they are unable to meet their own reasonable needs after a separation.  “Reasonable needs” does not just mean the bare necessities, but rather refers to the standard of living the partner was used to during the relationship.  “Reasonable needs” will vary widely from case to case.

The party’s inability to meet their own reasonable needs must be due to one or more of the following circumstances:

  1. The ability of the person to become self-supporting, taking into account:

    (i) the way household functions were divided during the relationship;
    (ii) the likely earning capacity of both parties; and
    (iii) any other relevant circumstances.

  2. The responsibilities of both parties for the ongoing daily care of any minor or dependent children of the relationship.

  3. The standard of living the parties maintained while they lived together.

  4. The fact that one person is undertaking education or training in order to increase their earning capacity and to reduce or eliminate the need for maintenance.

How long does it last?

The person receiving spousal maintenance must assume responsibility for their own reasonable needs within a period of time that is reasonable in all the circumstances of the particular case.  What will constitute a “reasonable period of time” will again depend on the circumstances of each case.

When will spousal maintenance cease?

If a person’s circumstances change, so that they are able to meet their own reasonable needs, and/or maintenance has been provided for a reasonable period of time, then the obligation to pay spousal maintenance will cease. 

If the person receiving spousal maintenance re-partners, spousal maintenance from their previous partner will also come to an end, because the new partner will be liable for maintenance. 

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins, we have an experienced family law team, who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.