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If your marriage or de facto relationship (domestic partnership) has broken down, you may be required to financially support your ex-partner, or vice versa. It helps to understand a little bit about the law in this area so that you can get a better idea of your rights and obligations.

What is spousal maintenance?

When a relationship has broken down, one partner may be required to maintain the other if that person can’t support themselves. This is known as “maintenance” and can be paid as a lump sum or by instalments. It can also be in the form of a transfer or settlement of property.

What does it mean to be unable to adequately support yourself?

There are many reasons why a person might be unable to adequately support themselves. Basically, it means that a person can’t earn an adequate income because of other more pressing demands on their time and finances, for example:

  • They are the primary carer of the children of the relationship.
  • Old age.
  • Physical or mental incapacity or illness.

How do I apply for spousal maintenance?

If you and your ex-partner can agree on the amount of maintenance, and how it should be paid, you can make a binding financial agreement. However, you should seek legal advice before entering into an agreement to ensure that your current needs and future needs are catered for.

If you can’t agree, you can make an application to the court to make an order that will be legally enforceable.

An application to the court must be made within one year of the date of your divorce, or within two years from the date of separation (if you are in a domestic partnership). If you are outside of these time limits, talk to us about your options.

If you are in immediate need of financial support, you can make an urgent application for maintenance. The Court will order an amount be paid to you on a temporary basis. These payments will stop when a final order is made. The final order will specify the actual amount to be paid.

What will the Court decide?

When deciding whether to make an order for maintenance, the Family Law Act requires a court to take many things into consideration, including:

  • The age and health of both parties.
  • The income, property and financial resources of each party.
  • Each party’s ability to work.
  • Whether either party has the care or control of a child of the relationship.
  • What is a suitable standard of living.
  • Whether either party is living with another person.

The court will also require evidence of your current financial position, such as payslips, tax returns, utilities bills and rent receipts.

Do I need a lawyer?

Maintenance applications are often difficult and require specific knowledge of the requirements that need to be satisfied.  If you are seeking orders for maintenance, it is important to seek legal advice to work out your entitlements.

Websters Lawyers is one of the best family law firms in Adelaide, with a team of outstanding family lawyers who are experienced in maintenance issues. Contact us today for a free first consultation. Because the sooner you act, often the better off you’ll be.


It doesn't cost you anything to know where you stand

*Please note: Websters lawyers is a South Australian based law firm, handling matters exclusive to South Australia, with offices located in Adelaide, Ridgehaven and Smithfield.

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