The Family Court has recently granted a woman’s application for an extension of interim spousal maintenance, even though three years had passed since separation.

The woman and her ex-partner agreed that they were together for at least four years and the date the relationship ended, which was 2019.

However, they could not agree upon the reason for separation.  The ex-partner argued that they had split up due to the woman’s drug problem. On the other hand, the woman argued that they had separated due to the ex-partner’s infidelity. She also argued that the ex-partner had spread ‘vicious rumours’ about her drug use and that as a result she was forced to leave the community and find work elsewhere.

The woman had previously been awarded interim spousal maintenance of $1,345 weekly for a period of six months by the Family Court. This award was made two and a half years after the relationship ended.

When that maintenance order expired, the woman applied to the Court to extend the interim spousal maintenance period for another six months.

Interim spousal maintenance is intended to support a party until a substantive hearing can take place. When awarding interim spousal maintenance, the Court should consider:

a.    That interim spousal maintenance is intended to protect individuals that cannot sustain themselves until a full hearing.

b.    The justice of any maintenance on the particular circumstances of the case.

c.     The reasonable means and needs of the applicant.

d.    The living standards of the parties before separation. 

The Court must also consider that parties to such a relationship should be able to self-sustain within a “reasonable period of time”. 

The woman argued that she had established her career in the place her and the ex-partner were living. However, because of the rumours spread by ex-partner, her reputation was ruined, and she had to move away to find work.

The woman began pursuing further education to develop her career skills, meaning that she did not have the capacity to earn enough income to sustain herself.

The Judge noted that there was no evidence the woman’s income would substantially increase because of her studies. Further, there was no evidence that the woman had explored alternatives to increase her income, such as part-time study and working more hours.

However, the important question for the Court was whether it was the division of functions within the relationship which caused the inability for the woman sustain herself financially. The Court could not determine this on the facts available.

The Court decided that the woman could sustain herself within a reasonable period. However, she should not be disadvantaged by a sudden stop of spousal maintenance payments.

Therefore, the Court awarded an extra two months of interim spousal maintenance payments (rather than the further six months sought).

The Judge noted that the couple should seek a substantive hearing as soon as possible, to determine the separation matters before the order expired.

This case illustrates the courts’ willingness to grant relief where necessary, even where a long period of time has passed since separation.

If you believe you have a claim for spousal maintenance, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

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.

Shaun Cousins and Hunter Flanagan-Connors


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.