Spousal Maintenance

Whether you’re someone who is seeking spousal maintenance or are being pursued to provide it, chances are there are some questions regarding spousal maintenance that you need further clarification on.

In this article, we’ll be giving you the answers to some frequently asked questions about the legal procedure. Read on so that you have a better idea of what to expect.

Q: What is spousal maintenance?

A: Spousal maintenance is financial support paid by one party to their former spouse when the latter is unable to support themselves after the breakdown of their marriage.

Spousal maintenance is reserved for couples who were once married. In the case of de facto relationships (domestic partnerships that have lasted more than two years), the term ‘de facto partner maintenance’ is used and different conditions may apply.

Q: What does it include?

A: Spousal maintenance can cover a variety of living costs. These may include mortgage payments, utility bills, healthcare costs, and daily living expenses. The amount depends primarily on both parties’ current financial capacity.

Q: How is it paid?

A: Spousal maintenance can be paid in different ways. Some opt for periodic weekly or monthly payments, while others pay in one single lump sum. Periodic payments can last for a designated number of years or, in some cases, for the remainder of the recipient’s life.

Q: What factors are considered by the court?

A: There are many factors that a court will take into consideration when assessing a claim for spousal maintenance. These can include, but are not limited to the following:

  • The age and health of both parties involved.
  • The financial and property resources of both parties.
  • The capacity for employment of both parties.
  • The length of the relationship and how it has affected the financial capacity of the applicant.
  • The presence of other parties (eg. children) that either the applicant or respondent has to support.
  • Other circumstances that the court can consider under Section 76 of the Family Law Act

Q: How does one apply for it?

A: Spousal maintenance can be agreed upon by both parties after the breakdown of their marriage. In the case that an agreement cannot be reached, an applicant may go to the Federal Circuit Court and submit the necessary documents to apply for one.

Q: How much time does one have to file an application?

A: For those seeking spousal maintenance (ie. formerly married couples), an applicant has 12 months from the date their divorce is finalized to file an application. For those seeking de facto partner maintenance, an applicant has 2 years from the date of separation.

Applicants who miss this window may ask for special permission from the court to file their application, but they will need to prove, with good reason, why they were unable to file their application earlier.


Spousal maintenance is designed to provide a suitable standard of living to those who claim it. It is applicable in all parts of Australia, although some jurisdictions may have minor modifications to the pertinent laws.

If you are looking for a family lawyer in Sydney to help you understand spousal maintenance, get in touch with us today and we’ll be happy to help.

This article is intended to provide general information. You should obtain professional advice before you undertake any course of action.

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