When a marriage or de facto relationship breaks down, people must adjust to a new way of living with the added financial pressures of having to survive on a single household income or no income at all, and reliance on a Centrelink pension or benefit.
One of the main concerns people have is “How am I going to financially support myself?”
If a relationship has followed traditional roles, women, in particular, often find themselves in a situation where their spouse was the primary breadwinner in the household, whilst they were the primary carer for the children and principal homemaker.
Consequently, they have been out of the workforce for many years, or have perhaps held paid employment in part-time or casual positions. As a result, their earning capacity has suffered and their professional careers have played second fiddle to their spouse’s flourishing career.
The topic of spousal maintenance arises when parties separate and one of them is unable to financially support themselves. It is a complex and often emotional issue, whether you be the party seeking spousal maintenance or the one being asked to pay it.
Spousal maintenance is a separate issue to child support and – for eligible parties – it is paid by their estranged or former partner in addition to child support.
Spousal maintenance is paid by one party to the other in circumstances where the other party is unable to adequately support themselves because they have the primary care of a child of the relationship, because of their age or physical or mental capacity for employment, or for any other adequate reason.
In assessing whether one party is entitled to receive payments of spousal maintenance from the other party, the Family Law Courts look at a number of factors including the duration of the relationship, the nature of the contributions made by each of the parties, how this has affected their respective earning capacity, current income, the capacity of one partner to support the other, and a standard of living that, in all the circumstances of this particular relationship, is reasonable moving forward.
Spousal maintenance is not an automatic entitlement. If you are a married couple who has separated, or partners in a de facto relationship that has broken down, including gay and lesbian spouses, we can advise you as to whether this is likely to be an issue for you depending on your financial situation and other relevant factors.
Whether you are the party entitled to claim payments of spousal maintenance, or the party on the receiving end of a claim, we will undertake a detailed examination of your circumstances and advise you about all relevant issues.