Spousal Maintenance: What to Expect

by FindLaw Team

Spousal maintenance is financial support paid to a former spouse by a former spouse in circumstances where they are unable to adequately support themselves. De facto spouse maintenance is also available to eligible partnerships.

Under the Family Law Act, a person has a responsibility to financially assist their spouse or former de facto partner, if that person cannot meet their own reasonable expenses from their personal income or assets. The extent of the support depends on what the other party can afford to pay.

Maintenance is not automatic. In deciding a maintenance application, the Family Court or Federal Magistrates' Court considers the needs of an applicant and the respondent's capacity to pay. A court considers the following about both of you:

  • age and health;
  • income, property, and financial resources;
  • ability to work;
  • what is a suitable standard of living;
  • if the marriage has affected ability to earn an income; and
  • With whom the children (under 18 years of age or adult children who are disabled) live.  

Applications for spousal maintenance must be made within 12 months of the divorce becoming final. Applications for de facto spouse maintenance must be made within 2 years of the breakdown of the de facto relationship. Outside these timelines, special permission of a court may be granted, though not guaranteed. You are not entitled to maintenance if you marry another person.

Please note if you live in Western Australia the law may be different. It is always recommended that you speak to a lawyer.


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