Divorce is an unfortunate part of life. Infidelity, marital issues, and simply falling out of love can lead couples to end their marriage. However, sometimes divorce can leave one spouse unable to financially support themself or any children the couple may have. In Australia, this can lead to one spouse seeking an agreement for a certain amount of money to be received to carry on with a certain way of life. This is referred to as spousal maintenance or spousal support.
What Is Spousal Maintenance?
Partners in de facto and same-sex relationships have the same rights and obligations for spousal maintenance in Australia as straight married couples. Spousal maintenance provides a certain payment to an ex-spouse who may not be able to take care of their financial needs at the time of a legal split. Spousal support is separate from child support and can be an ongoing periodic payment or lump sum payment. There may be cases where spousal maintenance is required to meet ongoing financial obligations pending a final settlement, such as mortgage payments on a house even if one spouse is now out of that house.
It’s a common misconception that people are no longer financially liable for their former partners once they separate or divorce. However, some may assume that spousal maintenance is automatically awarded to former partners. Each relationship comes with its own set of circumstances for spousal support, which will impact whether or not someone is entitled to these payments. You may be required to continue financially supporting a former partner or be entitled to receive spousal maintenance from a former partner. No case is exactly the same when it comes to the payer-payee relationship.
Applying for Spousal Maintenance
When it comes to working out a spousal support agreement, you may need the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. The Australian legal system has specific criteria to determine whether or not spousal maintenance should be awarded. The process of approval for these settlements includes a detailed examination of the income and expenses of both partners. In the family court system, each case is assessed on the main ground that spousal support can be afforded and the amount can be given to an ex-spouse.
While spousal maintenance differs from child support, both are taken care of as part of a divorce case in the family law court and may overlap in determining what’s in the best interests of the divorcing couple and the best interests of the child. Courts will look at the required care for children. For example, younger children may require having one parent at home, leaving that parent unable to apply for full-time employment. Spousal support is not automatic, as properties, inheritance, and other factors can determine whether a settlement is in the best interest of the separating couple.
Factors in Spousal Maintenance
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the marriage, there are factors that the court system weighs to create a good faith spousal maintenance settlement. If you were married, you have a time limit of one year after a divorce to apply for spousal support. A de facto relationship has two years to file, and the Court may allow for modification in certain hardship circumstances. The length of a marriage isn’t necessarily a factor. However, it really depends.
You may or may not be able to acquire or provide spousal maintenance depending on other circumstances in your case such as caring for young children or being unable to earn an income. Bankruptcy and prior marital agreements can also impact the possibility of spousal support. A former partner can still make an application for maintenance regardless of bankruptcy. If your ex-spouse is successful in their application, the settlement can be taken from debts that can be enforced by the legal system.