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What is Spousal Maintenance
in Family Law?

The court has the power to order one party to pay ‘maintenance’ to the other on an ongoing basis. The goal of the legislation however, is to ensure that there is a ‘clean break’ between the parties. Therefore, it is much more likely that spousal maintenance, if payable, will only be applicable on a short-term basis.

A party to a marriage or a de facto relationship is liable to maintain the other to the extent that they are reasonably able to do so if, and only if, the other partner is unable to support themselves adequately.

In order for spousal maintenance to be payable the receiving spouse must show that they have a need which they cannot meet (without access to public funds) and that the paying spouse has the ability to pay.

The reasons for spousal maintenance being payable may be:

  1. One party having the care of the children of the relationship under the age of eighteen years; or
  2. Their age or health considerations mean they cannot earn an income; or
  3. Any other adequate reason.
When a spouse maintenance order is made, it is subject to variation if either party’s circumstances change. In practice spouse maintenance is usually only payable until the property matter is finalised and to get through the interim stage. Each party will be expected to take steps to earn an income after separation.
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