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Spousal Maintenance in Family Law

Post separation payments to an ex partner

This used to be referred to as alimony. These days the term used is ‘Spousal Maintenance’. It is simply the process of one partner paying the other money for their maintenance after the relationship has ended. The process of separation can leave one party financially held back from taking new direction that life has thrown at them.

In Australia the right to seek spousal maintenance is found in the Family Law Act 1975 and applies to both married and de facto relationships.

The law relating to spousal maintenance can be summarised as follows:

  1. One spouse party needs financial support; and
  2. The other spouse party has the means available to pay that financial support; and
  3. The circumstances of the case makes payment appropriate.

As you can see the above principles fit well the circumstances where one party has been the primary bread winner and the other party has been out of the workforce looking after the home and or children. There may be a need for example in that situation for one party to support their former spouse’s retraining for employment. Each case will be different.

The circumstances of each case govern whether maintenance is to be paid as a one-off, lump sum or ongoing regular payments over a long time.

It is possible for spousal maintenance to be included in property settlement between ex partners.


Time limits apply

It is important to be aware of the time limits that apply to making an application to court for spousal maintenance.

Typically a spouse party will to a marriage have 12 months from the date that the divorce takes effect in which they can apply. This is 24 months from separation in the case of de facto couples.

In some circumstances a court may grant permission for ‘out of time’ applications. We recommend you obtain legal advice if you want to apply but think you may be out of time.


De facto declaration may be needed

Sometimes there is a dispute about whether a de facto relationship ever existed in a legal sense. In such cases it may be necessary for a declaration about the existence of the relationship to be made. Read our web page about de facto relationships



Do you need legal help with a Family Law problem?

If you need help or advice with any Family Law issues including spousal maintenance – either as the recipient or payer – call us on 07 5597 3366 or fill out the ‘Contact Us‘ form below.



Please note the above is by way of general information only. It is not intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. If you have a legal issue we recommend you obtain professional legal advice tailored to your circumstances.