What is Spousal Maintenance?

In the legislation of Western Australia, Spousal Maintenance is not directly defined, therefore it is frequently misunderstood by many. Spousal Maintenance in Perth is a relief to those who need and are thus seeking financial support from their spouse after the breakdown of their marriage or from their former de facto partner.

Spousal maintenance and child support are often confused as well. Quite simply, spousal maintenance assists in the daily living expenses from one spouse to another whilst child support is paid for the benefit and maintenance of the children. Moreover, child support payments are given higher priority than the spousal maintenance payments. These payments can be either lump sum or periodical, as specified by the court of law or as agreed upon mutually.

The court can order one party to pay the other – Spousal Maintenance, Child Support or both, but only if the recipient cannot adequately support him/herself (whether it is due to age, ill health, lack of marketable job skills or dependents such as children under 18 years of age) and the spouse is financially able to do so. This applies to both married and de facto couples, including same-sex couples. Spousal maintenance in WA can also be considered when finalising a family law property settlement.

The Family court in Western Australia conducts a test under the Family Law Act (section 205ZC of the Family Court Act) to decide whether the applicant is eligible for spousal maintenance or not. Based on the criteria mentioned above, the application is approved upon examining the applicant’s need for financial support and the other party’s capacity to provide it.

Time limits apply regarding how soon after separation one can claim for spousal maintenance in Perth. However, married couples do not have to wait for their divorce to be settled to apply for spousal maintenance. You can apply immediately after separating from your spouse or partner. But you have to make sure that you apply for spousal maintenance before the completion of 12 months after the date of your divorce order. And if you fail to do so, you will have to submit a preliminary application through which you will need to prove your hardships to be eligible for spousal maintenance.

It is the same in case of de facto relationships, the only difference being in the period to bring in the spousal maintenance application to the court. De facto couples are allowed a period of 2 years after the date of separation to apply for spousal maintenance in WA. After the completion of 2 years, you will also have to submit a preliminary application to be eligible for receiving spousal maintenance from your partner.

If you believe you should be receiving spousal maintenance or have any further queries regarding Spousal Maintenance in Perth, please contact us today for initial free legal advice.