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What is spousal maintenance and could you be entitled to it?

By Fiona McGeorge - 18 Aug 2017

This week is Money Week - a great time to take stock of your financial position. Did you know that if you've separated from your partner and they're living a life of luxury while you're in struggle street, you could be eligible for spousal maintenance?

Many people confuse spousal maintenance payments with child support payments.  Although the two often sit alongside each other, they are not one and the same and you may be entitled to claim both. Spousal maintenance is to cover the adult's reasonable day to day living costs, while child support is to pay for the children's weekly expenses.

So, the big question - are you entitled to spousal maintenance?  If you answer yes to these three questions then you are likely to have a claim for spousal maintenance:

  1. Are you unable to meet your reasonable day to day living costs on your own income?
  2. Is the reason you can't meet your own costs because of a joint decision you and your former partner made while in a relationship? The most common reason is because one parent stayed home to look after the children while the other parent continued to work.
  3. Does your former partner earn enough to be able to contribute to some of your expenses while also covering their own day to day costs?

The Family Proceedings Act 1980 sets out the requirements for a spousal maintenance claim. The Act has regard for "the effects of the divisions of the functions of marriage" and it also recognises the likely earning capacity of each party. The law recognises that many people struggle to break back into the workforce, after a period of time not working and therefore require assistance from their former partner to help them during this period.

The Courts confirm that it's not appropriate that one person is required to scrape by after separation, while the other partner lives a life of luxury, if this comes about as a result of joint decisions made during the relationship. The Court will assess the standard of living the parties had while living together and each party's ability to fund their own living costs. If spousal maintenance is required the Court will make an order requiring one partner to make weekly or monthly payments to the other partner to help meet that partner's day to day expenses.

If you think you might be eligible for spousal maintenance, are having spousal maintenance claimed from you, or you would like assistance understanding your rights, contact Fiona McGeorge to discuss.


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