Spousal maintenance is ongoing financial support provided by one party to another when a relationship ends. It is to provide support to a party who cannot meet their own reasonable needs due to one of the following circumstances which needs to be the primary reason why a party is unable to meet their own needs:

  • The ability of each party to become self supporting
    • Likely earning capacity of each party
    • Consideration of the effects of the division of functions within the relationship
  • The responsibilities of either party after the relationship has ended, for the daily care of dependent children
  • The standard of living when the parties lived together
  • The undertaking by one spouse, of a period of education to improve their earning capacity or to reduce their need for maintenance payments
    1. This may be due to the division of functions within the relationship or due to arrangements surrounding the care of children
    2. Because the party previously maintained, or contributed to the maintenance of the other during a period of education or training.

Can I apply for spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance can be claimed if you have been in a marriage, civil union and de facto relationship of three or more years.

How does spousal maintenance effect my child support payments?

Spousal maintenance is different to child support and can be paid in addition.

How is spousal maintenance paid?

It is normally paid in the form of direct periodic payments. However, in some cases it could include paying bills resulting from occupation of the family home by the non-paying spouse.

If my marriage or civil union is not yet dissolved can I get spousal maintenance?

It is possible to get spousal maintenance before a marriage or civil union is dissolved if one party can show that they have reasonable need on one of the six grounds:

  1. Any of the four grounds outlined above
  2. He/she has a physical or mental disability
  3. If he/she is unable to obtain work that is reasonable for he/she to do and is adequate to maintain him/her.

How long will I get spousal maintenance for?

It is generally only considered to be a temporary arrangement. After a reasonable amount of time both parties should be responsible for maintaining themselves financially without any reliance on their ex-partner.

How do the Court’s decide how much spousal maintenance must be paid?

In deciding whether to grant a maintenance order, the Court will look firstly at whether to do so would be in the child’s best interests to do so and will also look closely at the resources and needs of each parent.   Relevant factors in deciding the amount payable:

  1. The needs of the parties
  2. The means of the parties (earning capacity)
  3. The responsibilities of the parties (i.e. for support of another person)

Can parents who are not married or in a civil union claim spousal maintenance?

Where parents are not married or in a civil union, one natural parent has the right to apply for spousal maintenance from the other natural parent. The applicant must either have day-to-day care (custody) of the child, or have had custody at some time in the past and the natural father must be someone who could be liable to pay child support.

How do you get spousal maintenance?

You can apply for spousal maintenance by way of an application to the Family Court. Parties may also come to an agreement via negotiation between their lawyers.

What are the costs involved for getting spousal maintenance?

Lawyer’s fees will vary considerably; at Jeremy Sutton Barristers we will happily set a fixed fee for the services we provide for your case going forward in our initial consultation with you. You also have the option of an hourly rate charge.


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