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SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE FAQS

When you are considering divorce or are in the process of getting divorced, the topic of spousal maintenance can be complex and frustrating. For anyone who has questions about obtaining spousal maintenance, the process for seeking support can feel confusing. For a spouse who has concerns about paying spousal maintenance, it can be difficult to find clear answers to questions about spousal maintenance. The following are some frequently asked questions we receive concerning spousal maintenance, along with answers to those questions from our spousal maintenance lawyers.

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HOW DOES SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE GET AWARDED?

Under Part VIII of Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), in order to get spousal maintenance—also known sometimes as spousal support or alimony—the spouse who wants spousal maintenance needs to ask for it specifically. Once a spouse requests maintenance, as part of a family law proceeding, the first issue the court needs to decide is whether maintenance is appropriate. To determine whether maintenance is appropriate, the court considers many different factors. Those factors may include, for example:

  • The income of the spouses;
  • Needs of each spouse;
  • The spouse’s ability to earn an income, both now and in the future;
  • Whether the future earning capacity of the spouse needing maintenance is impacted by the time spent caring for the home or children during the marriage;
  • Whether any factor might impact the payer of maintenance’s ability to earn income in the future;
  • Amount of time the lesser-earning spouse would need to acquire the employment necessary to support himself or herself;
  • Effect of parenting scheduled on either party’s ability to seek or maintain employment;
  • Standard of living established during the marriage;
  • Duration of the marriage; and
  • Health, age and occupation of the parties.

There are additional factors that the court can consider in determining whether spousal maintenance is appropriate. Once the court decides that a maintenance award is appropriate, then it must determine the amount and duration of that award.

ARE INTERIM SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE AWARDS AVAILABLE?

Yes. When a married or de facto couple separate, one of the parties can seek an interim award. In determining whether an interim award is appropriate, the court will consider many of the same factors listed above.

IS THERE A TIME LIMIT FOR SPOUSE MAINTENANCE APPLICATIONS?

Yes. When you are married, applications for spouse maintenance must be made within 12 months of your divorce becoming final. If you were in a de facto relationship an application for de facto partner maintenance must be made within two years of the breakdown of your de facto relationship.