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.