6 Things to Know About Spousal Maintenance
Spousal maintenance is the weekly amount payable by one spouse or partner from their income to support the former spouse or partner. It recognises the mutual obligations of both parties to the other, upon their separation or divorce.
Many people who’ve separated with a partner don’t realise that they need to pay spousal maintenance. At the same time, there are also people who don’t know that they are entitled to support from their former spouse or partner. It’s best to get in touch with family lawyers Perth locals trust to know more about your options. Family lawyers in Perth know the ins and outs of Western Australia family law and are thus in the best place to offer assistance.
That being said, it’s a good idea to equip yourself with knowledge regarding spousal maintenance so that you don’t go in completely unaware. Here are some important details to keep in mind:
It is Separate from Child Maintenance
Spousal maintenance is completely separate from child support or child maintenance. As the terms themselves imply, spousal maintenance is for the former spouse or partner and child maintenance is for the children. You should also remember that child support payments are prioritised over spousal support payments.
Property Settlement is Also a Different Matter
Property settlement is about the division of property or physical assets upon separation or divorce. Note that this doesn’t include any form of income. As such, make sure to discuss with your family lawyer if there’s a need to arrange for spousal maintenance or support.
It Also Applies to De Facto Relationships
While it is called “spousal maintenance,” it doesn’t apply to married couples only. It also applies to couples who were in de facto relationships. A de facto relationship is defined as a relationship between two people who are not legally married but live together on a genuine domestic basis. This definition applies throughout Australia. Moreover, it also applies to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. For it to be considered a de facto relationship, the couple should have lived together for two years without separation.
For spouses, spousal maintenance applications are brought under the Family Law Act 1975 (Family Law Act). For de facto partners, it is under the Family Court Act 1997 (WA) (Family Court Act).
You Need to Apply On Time
For legally married couples, the spouse can apply for spousal maintenance from the day of the separation. You don’t need to wait to be divorced first. If the divorce is already finalised, you have 12 months to bring a spousal maintenance application. Should the 12 months lapse, you need to first bring a preliminary application to prove hardship.
For de facto couples, you need to bring a spousal maintenance application within two years from the date of your separation. Should these two years lapse, the same procedure applies. You need to bring a preliminary application to prove hardship before you are allowed to apply for spousal maintenance.
The Decision is Affected by Various Factors
The court considers both the applicant’s needs and the respondent’s capacity to pay. Other factors that can influence the final decision include the age and health, as well as both parties’ ability to work. The court will also determine if the divorce or separation has affected income-earning abilities and financial resources. In addition, the court will take into account with whom your children live. Specifically, the court will look at children who are under 18 and adult children who have disabilities.
Do note that these are not the only things that the court will consider in making their decision. Many other things that can affect the results, such as the rights of creditors, any binding financial agreements, and even the duration of the marriage.
It’s Not Automatic
If you’re the one applying for spousal maintenance, you should be able to establish that you are unable to support yourself (and your children, if they live with you). Moreover, you should be able to prove that your former spouse or partner is able to provide support. Again, as previously mentioned, there are many factors that the court will look at. They have a very wide discretion so don’t expect that spousal maintenance will be granted automatically. Keep in mind that both parties should be able to maintain suitable standards of living at the end of the proceedings.
Separation and divorce are harrowing experiences. You need all the help you can get to make sure you don’t forget any important details. Hire reliable family lawyers to help you with your spousal maintenance concerns to take a huge load off your shoulders.
If you need more information about spousal maintenance, you may visit www.familylawassist.com.au. They can also help you settle various family law matters beyond just spousal maintenance.
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