Spousal maintenance refers to financial support paid by one spouse to the other following the breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship. Spousal maintenance is different from Child Support and aims to provide the receiving spouse with enough money to maintain their standard of living while making the necessary adjustments to become financially independent.
In Australia there is no automatic entitlement to spousal maintenance upon separation and a person seeking spousal maintenance (the applicant) must apply for a court order. The court will then consider several factors, including the applicant's income, assets and financial resources, their age and health, the length of the relationship and any parenting responsibilities for the child/children.
The purpose of spousal maintenance is to ensure that both parties can meet their basic needs after separation. These needs can include expenses such as accommodation, food, clothing and transport. The applicant may also need education or training support if they need to develop skills to return to work.
Spousal maintenance should not be confused with child support, which is designed to meet the needs of any dependent children in the relationship. Child support is calculated according to a fixed formula and is paid by the parent who spends the least amount of time with the children to the parent who primarily cares for the children.
In Australia, spousal maintenance can be paid as a lump sum or as regular periodic payments. The amount and duration of spousal maintenance is determined by the Court, taking into account the specific circumstances of each case. In some cases, spousal support may be ordered for a limited time to help the receiving spouse become financially independent.
The Court must take into account the paying spouse's ability to pay spousal maintenance when considering income and expenses. If the financial situation of the paying spouse changes, he or she can ask the Court to revise the maintenance amount. In addition, they may also request a review if the recipient spouse's circumstances change. It is important to note that spousal maintenance is not a permanent obligation and can be terminated if either party's circumstances change. For example, if the recipient spouse remarries or starts living with a new partner, the right to spousal maintenance may be lost.
Spousal maintenance is considered taxable income for the recipient spouse. The paying spouse can claim spousal maintenance payments as a tax deduction. If a person refuses to pay spousal maintenance as ordered by the Court, they can be held in contempt of Court and face severe penalties such as fines or imprisonment. In some cases, the Court may also garnish the payor's wages to enforce a support order.
Spousal maintenance can be a complex issue and the laws surrounding it can be difficult to understand without proper legal advice. If you are considering separating from your partner, it is important to consult with a family law solicitor to help navigate the process and ensure your rights and interests are protected.
Surge Legal can help you understand the Court's approach to spousal maintenance and advise you how on how to proceed in your particular circumstances. Call us now for a free consultation or book online below.