Spousal maintenance in Qld is financial support paid by one spouse or de facto partner to the other spouse or partner following separation or divorce. The spouse or partner claiming this support, often receives financial payments by way of a lump sum or periodic payments. Every couple’s circumstance is different, so the duration and amount payable are assessed on a case by case basis. In this article we answer the most common questions surrounding spousal maintenance. We hope it helps to guide you through your unique situation.
Who is Entitled to Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal maintenance is not an automatic right in Australia. The court ordinarily determines whether or not a spouse or partner has a right to claim maintenance.
Under Section 72 of the Family Law Act 1975, a party has a right to spousal maintenance in Qld (and Australia), if they are unable to support themselves because:
(a) by reason of having the care and control of a child of the marriage who has not attained the age of 18 years;
(b) by reason of age or physical or mental incapacity for appropriate gainful employment; or
(c) for any other adequate reason;
The court will also determine if the party not claiming spousal maintenance has the financial capacity to assist their ex-spouse or ex-partner.
How is Spousal Maintenance Calculated?
In Qld, the court will consider a variety of factors when determining how much financial support should be paid. These factors include:
- Both party’s income, financial resources and property;
- The age and health of both parties;
- The earning capacity or potential for both parties;
- Whether or not one party holds primary care of a child (from the relationship);
- An obligations of either party to support another person;
- The duration of the relationship;
- Whether or not the relationship has affected either parties’ ability to earn income; and
- Any pre-existing financial agreements made between the parties.
How Long Will You Receive Spousal Payments For?
It is important to note that spousal maintenance payments in Qld can run for an indefinite amount of time or a specific period of time. Ultimately, the length of maintenance is dependent on individual circumstances as well as the receiving party’s ability to support themselves financially. Section 82 of the Family Law Act 1975 also states that a spousal maintenance order will cease to end upon:
- The death of the payee;
- The death of the payer; or
- The re-marriage of the payee (except in special circumstances)
If the receiving party enters a new de facto relationship, spousal maintenance does not necessarily end. The court will look at several factors that determine the continuation of payments, including whether or not the new relationship constitutes a de facto relationship and the financial circumstances of the relationship (e.g. pooled incomes and living arrangements).
Can Spousal Maintenance Payments Be Reduced?
There may be instances where the paying party can request a reduction in spousal maintenance payments in Qld. For example, if the party is unable to work or has been made redundant and seen a reduction in income, they can apply to the court to vary or discharge spousal maintenance payments. It is important to seek legal advice from a family lawyer before making your application to reduce your payments.
What’s the Difference in Spousal Maintenance in Qld for De Facto and Married Couples?
Similar to married couples, de facto parties are permitted to apply for spousal maintenance in Qld pending some eligibility criteria. However, under state laws, parties in a de facto relationship that ended before March 1 2009 have no right to maintenance. There is a slight difference in time limits for married and de facto couples. If you are a party in a marriage, you must apply to the court for maintenance within one year of your finalised divorce. If you are a party in a de facto relationship, you must apply to the court for maintenance within two years from the date your relationship ended.
Speak to Emerson Family Law About Spousal Maintenance in Qld
Whether you are seeking more information regarding spousal maintenance in Qld or you’re looking to alter your current spousal maintenance order, the team at Emerson Family Law are experienced in dealing with all matters surrounding spousal maintenance. We also offer legal advice and representation for other family law matters, including child maintenance and support as well as property settlements. Please get in touch to speak with our via email or phone.