In the family law realm, the actual Divorce is the easy part. A Divorce does not finalise your property settlement. It is simply a dissolution of your marriage at law.
The more difficult aspect is formalising your property settlement with your ex which includes not only dividing the assets and liabilities, but also incorporates a concept called Spousal Maintenance.
Spousal Maintenance is Australia’s version of “Alimony”. That is effectively where the similarities stop. Whilst you hear stories from other jurisdictions along the lines of “I have to pay alimony for the rest of my life” that is not the case here in Australia.
The Court’s in Australia, shall as far as practicable, make such Orders as will finally determine the financial relationships between the parties to the marriage and avoid further proceedings between them [s81 (for marriages) and s90ST (for de facto) of the Family Law Act.]
What is Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal Maintenance is an amount of money that is paid by one party to the other for their financial support if and only if, the other party is unable to support themselves adequately whether:
- By reason of having the care and control of a child of the marriage who has not yet attained the age of 18 years;
- By reason of age or physical or mental incapacity for appropriate gainful employment; or
- For any other adequate reason [s 72(1) for marriages and s 90SF(1) for de facto relationships].
Do I have to pay Spousal Maintenance?
It is not uncommon for one party of the relationship/marriage to be the homemaker and parent whilst the other party works full-time. If this sounds like your family dynamic, you will need to factor in that you may have to pay Spousal Maintenance by way of either periodic payments or a lump sum payment.
De Facto parties may also be liable to pay spousal maintenance in circumstances where the Court finds that both of the parties to the De Facto relationship were ordinarily resident in a participating jurisdiction when the application for maintenance was made [s90SD].
Each case is different due to the discretionary nature of family law and that’s why it is critically important that you don’t speak to your friends or relatives about what may happen to you. They might know what happened to them but they cannot tell you what may happen in your situation.
Speaking to a lawyer at Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers will give you the advice and the range of possible outcomes specific to you and you alone.
The information in this blog does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by you. If you require advice specific to your situation you must contact Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers for legal advice. The contents of this blog are relevant as at 30 October 2019. We recommend you obtain specific advice relevant to you and your family’s situation.
Teagan McEwan is a lawyer at Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers.