Spousal maintenance is the payment by one party to their former spouse so as to support them financially. Spousal maintenance is not just confined to married couples but applications for spousal maintenance can also be made by those who were in a de facto relationship.
Spousal maintenance is not an automatic right of one party after separation.
To qualify for maintenance, a person will have to show that they are unable to meet their reasonable living expenses because:
- they are caring for children;
- they cannot work because of their age, ill health or have no job skills due to being out of the work force for too long; or
- some other adequate reason.
Even if a person is capable of meeting the threshold above, the next step is to consider whether the person who is being asked to pay maintenance can in fact afford to pay it, once they have met their own reasonable living expenses. The intended payer will need to be able to have the capacity provide the support claimed for the application to be successful.
If an application is successful, spousal maintenance can be made as a lump sum or regular payment. Regular maintenance payments will cease upon the party receiving the payment remarrying, forming a new de facto relationship, obtaining employment or upon the death of either party.
In practice, the Court, or the parties themselves in coming to an agreement, will account for the disparity in their abilities to meet their reasonable living expenses in their property settlement.