If you have separated it is possible to obtain ongoing payments from your ex-partner until you are able to meet your own financial needs. This is called “maintenance” and is not to be confused with child support. A recent change in the law has widened the circumstances where maintenance can be ordered by the Court against your ex-partner and such orders are likely to be made more frequently now.

Your ex-partner may be liable to meet your reasonable needs if you are unable to do so and it is reasonable having regard to your age

  • the length of the relationship
  • your ability to become self supporting
  • likely earning capacity
  • past living standards
  • care of the children
  • any other relevant circumstances

Amongst other things, maintenance is particularly appropriate after long relationships where one partner has assumed a home-keeper role (adopting the primary child care role) thus minimising their accumulated assets and earning capacity.

If a maintenance order is made the Court will look at the following factors in deciding how much the payments should be:

  • Your reasonable needs
  • Potential earning capacity
  • Any property received after the separation
  • The financial responsibilities of your ex-partner

Those paying maintenance will have to maintain two separate households, so maintenance orders will usually be confined to high income couples. The Court may award either a lump sum or periodic payments for as long as the Court sees fit, or both.

You must then assume responsibility for meeting your own financial needs within a reasonable time. In theory a reasonable time could be of indefinite length. However, looking at the Courts decisions, the practical reality is a maximum period of about 5 years. The maintenance order will expire if you marry or enter a new de facto relationship.

Finally, remember that a delay in applying for maintenance after separation may demonstrate an ability to survive without maintenance and damage your chances of being successful. If the post-separation period will be economically difficult you should give serious thought to whether you can apply for maintenance.

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.