One powerful, yet under-utilised, tool following separation from your spouse, or de facto partner, is interim spousal maintenance.  This is provision of financial support after separation, but before your relationship property is divided.

If your former partner was the main income earner, or controlled all of the relationship assets, you may find yourself in a precarious financial position after separation.

You may even find that your partner deliberately tries to manipulate the financial situation, hoping that you will give in to their demands regarding a division of finances.

Interim spousal maintenance is a powerful remedy designed to combat exactly this. 

The Court considers that either party should be able to meet their reasonable needs, pending division of relationship property. 

Eligibility for spousal maintenance to meet such needs depends on one or more of the following:

  1. The ability of the parties to be (or to become) self-supporting;
  2. Responsibility for the care of a child of the family;
  3. The standard of living of the parties enjoyed whilst together;
  4. Any physical or mental disability;
  5. Inability to obtain reasonable work; and
  6. The undertaking of a period of education or training for the purpose of increasing their earning capacity and meeting their reasonable needs.

The Court has complete discretion with respect to the amount of interim maintenance, but in assessing it, it will have regard (amongst other things) to the means, the reasonable needs, and the financial and other responsibilities, of each party.

A party seeking spousal maintenance will usually try to agree a maintenance sum with their former partner directly, or via negotiation between lawyers. 

This may of course not be possible if the situation is acrimonious, or the other party is refusing to engage in negotiations.  In such a case, an urgent application may be made to the Court.  The Court will prioritise such applications.

Typically, parties will file an affidavit of their financial means.  They will also often instruct an actuary or accountant to corroborate their budgetary evidence, and to give their own expert opinion of what constitutes reasonable needs. 

For the applicant’s part, this reassures the Court that the applicant isn’t exaggerating the figures.  For the respondent’s part, it helps to keep the figures realistic.

The Court will then decide on whether interim maintenance is appropriate, and in what sum.  Often it is not a case of “if”; it is a case of “how much”. 

These interim maintenance awards can have a lifespan of only six months, reflecting the Court’s intention that they are temporary relief only.  However, proceedings may drag on, and there is no limit to the number of times that the applicant may apply to the Court for a further maintenance award.

In many cases interim maintenance orders encourage a difficult party to take the division negotiations seriously.  Even the most stubborn party will not want to pay interim maintenance for longer than necessary.

If you have separated and your partner isn’t playing fair with the finances, it is worth investigating whether you could be entitled to make a claim for interim spousal 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 team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.


Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.