Spousal Maintenance The Threshold Test

Recently I had cause to revisit the issue of the threshold issue in spousal maintenance.

The matter was looked at by the Full Family Court in the case of McCrossen and McCrossen [2006] FamCA 868.

A wife who wanted to become a teacher failed in her bid for spousal maintenance because the court found she could support herself by using her existing skills.

The wife had been out of the workforce since 1996, but had last worked as a section head in the public service. The wife gave evidence that she wished to be retrained as a teacher rather than return to her former occupation. Expert evidence was given on behalf of the husband that she could get a job in the public service on a higher salary than she would receive after retraining as a teacher.

The Court held that the Family Law Act requires that a party establish that they are unable to support themself, not that they are unable to support themself in a particular endeavour as opposed to another which may be available to them. Accordingly the wife did not satisfy the threshold test for eligibility for spousal maintenance.

This case has very practical implications for a party seeking support from the other after separation.