If you have separated you may be entitled to receive, or may need to provide, ongoing financial support to your former spouse/partner.

This form of financial support is called “spousal maintenance” and it is different to child support.  The entitlement to receive spousal maintenance, or liability to pay, applies not only to married/civil union couples, but also to de facto relationships in some circumstances.

Immediately following separation, spousal maintenance may be payable if:

  • Party A cannot meet their reasonable needs; and
  • Party B has the ability to pay.

“Reasonable needs” does not mean simply the basics required to get by (such as food, clothing, shelter), rather it refers to what is required to maintain the standard of living that existed while the parties were together; essentially the lifestyles the parties were accustomed to.

To prepare a maintenance claim Party A will need to prepare a budget for their household, having regard to any income they might be receiving, including any child support, and work out what the shortfall between income and outgoings is.  That shortfall would usually be the amount of maintenance sought.

Beyond interim maintenance, which is usually only in place while the division of property is resolved, final maintenance may be payable.  To establish a claim for final maintenance Party A must show that the reason he/she cannot meet his/her reasonable needs is because of:

  • Child care obligations; or
  • The ability to become self-supporting due to likely earning capacity; or
  • How functions were divided during the relationship (eg. One party working and the other staying at home);
  • Standard of living while the parties were together;
  • Any health reasons;
  • The need to undertake education/training in order to become self-supporting.

There is no set timeframe for how long maintenance will be payable.  There is however an expectation that Party A will become self-supporting over time.  Depending on the circumstances, that could be several months in some cases and several years in others.

Following separation, a delay in applying for spousal maintenance may demonstrate an ability to survive without maintenance and therefore damage the chance of a successful claim.  If the post separation period will be economically difficult you should seriously consider obtaining advice as to whether you should apply for maintenance.

The financial implications of spousal maintenance can make a big difference following separation, regardless of whether you are the person receiving or the person making payments.  Either way, if you are going through a separation it is an area you should be informed about.


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.