Family Law FAQs: What’s the Difference Between Spousal Maintenance and Alimony?

Clarity Lawyers Australia Blog Difference Between Spousal Maintenance And Alimony

When navigating the financial aspects of divorce, understanding the terms “spousal maintenance” and “alimony” is crucial. These terms, often used interchangeably, have specific meanings that can impact your financial future.

While alimony is commonly referenced in countries like the United States, in Australia, we talk about spousal maintenance.

In this installment of Family Law FAQs, our Newcastle family law experts will clarify the differences between the two, helping you understand how spousal support works in Australia.

What is Alimony?

Alimony, commonly referred to in countries like the United States, is a financial support payment made by one spouse to the other following a divorce.

It is designed to provide ongoing financial support to the spouse who earns less or has no income, ensuring they can maintain a reasonable standard of living post-divorce.

Is Alimony the Same Thing as Spousal Maintenance?

In Australia, the term “alimony” is not commonly used. Instead, we refer to “spousal maintenance.”

While both alimony and spousal maintenance serve the purpose of providing financial support to a lower-earning spouse, the terminology and legal processes differ.

Spousal maintenance in Australia is governed by the Family Law Act and applies to both married couples and those in de facto relationships.

Clarity Lawyers Australia Blog Difference Between Spousal Maintenance And Alimony 2

Common Misconceptions About Spousal Maintenance and Alimony

There are several misconceptions about spousal maintenance and alimony:

  • Eligibility: Many believe that only women can receive spousal maintenance, but it is available to any spouse in need, regardless of gender.
  • Duration: Some think spousal maintenance payments are always lifelong, but they can be temporary or adjusted based on changing circumstances, such as if the person receiving spousal support payments is to remarry.
  • Automatic Entitlement: Not all divorces result in spousal maintenance; it is determined by specific circumstances, such as if one person was not working in order to provide care to the couple’s children, and financial needs.

How is Spousal Maintenance Calculated?

Spousal maintenance in Australia is calculated based on various factors. These factors include the income, property, and financial resources of both parties, as well as each party’s earning capacity and ability to gain employment.

Additionally, the financial needs and reasonable expenses of the party seeking support, and the duration of the marriage or de facto relationship, along with the contributions made by each party, are considered.

The family court evaluates these factors to determine whether spousal maintenance is necessary and, if so, the amount and duration of the payments.

When Am I Eligible to Receive Spousal Maintenance?

You may be eligible to receive spousal maintenance if you cannot adequately support yourself due to:

  • Caring for a child of the relationship.
  • Age or physical or mental incapacity that limits your ability to gain employment.
  • Any other relevant factor that affects your earning capacity or financial circumstances.

It’s important to keep in mind that eligibility is assessed on a case-by-case basis – we recommend that you seek legal advice to understand your specific situation.

When Will I Have to Pay Spousal Maintenance?

You may be required to pay spousal maintenance if:

  • Your former partner is unable to support themselves adequately.
  • You have the financial resources to provide the necessary support.
  • The family court determines that spousal maintenance is justified based on the circumstances.

Payments can be made as periodic payments, a lump sum, or through a binding financial agreement.

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How We Can Help

At Clarity Lawyers, we understand the complexities of spousal maintenance and alimony. Our experienced family lawyers in Maitland and Newcastle can provide you with the necessary legal advice and support to navigate these financial proceedings. Whether you need help calculating spousal maintenance payments, understanding your eligibility, or negotiating a spousal maintenance arrangement, we are here to assist you every step of the way.

If you are dealing with issues related to spousal maintenance or need more information about your financial support options post-divorce, contact Clarity Lawyers today. Our approachable and supportive team is dedicated to ensuring the best possible outcome for your situation.

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Rli Samantha@2x
Samantha Miller

Samantha has been a lawyer since 2001 having followed in the steps of her father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather. No one can say she didn’t know what she was getting into!

Initially admitted in 2001 as a solicitor in NSW and Australia, Samantha moved to the UK where she was admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales in 2002. After working in several different areas of the law in large London firms, she determined that family law was her calling and hasn’t looked back.


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