If you have recently separated or are going through a divorce, then there are countless legal issues you have to deal with, and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what everything means. One of the terms you may be hearing is Spousal Maintenance, perhaps you have even been served some Spousal Maintenance documents from your former spouse and are wondering what you should do. This article is here to help you understand this complex subject, as it details what Spousal Maintenance means, whether you need to pay it, and – if you are on the other side of the situation – how to apply for it.
Spousal Maintenance is when a person provides an ex-partner or ex-spouse with financial support – in the US this is called ‘alimony’. Many people don’t realise that after a marriage or de facto relationship ends, one of the partners might be entitled to payment from the person with the higher income. It’s important to note that Spousal Maintenance is different from child support, as its purpose is to support the adult partner if they are unable to do so themselves. A spouse has a right to financial maintenance from their ex-partner to the extent that they are able to afford, as this law recognises that when you enter into a marriage you have a mutual obligation to look after each other.
If you require Spousal Maintenance from your former partner, then you have a year after the date of your divorce to apply, and if you were in a de-facto relationship you have two years after the relationship ends.
If you are in need of Spousal Maintenance from your former partner, then you have to complete a Form 1 Initiating Application, Form 13 Financial Statement, and an Affidavit which details your background – including past employment and financial situation. Your documents are then filed to the court, and you will receive a hearing date, after this you can then serve the documents on your spouse.
There are a couple of different types of Spousal Maintenance, as it can be paid on an urgent basis or an interim basis. If you have a legitimate, urgent need for this financial support, then you can apply for the urgent Spousal Maintenance payment. In this instance you don’t need to supply the court with all the evidence of financial need, as it is usually in an emergency situation where there is an obvious need but no time to follow the normal process.
You will have to pay Spousal Maintenance if your ex-partner is unable to financially support themselves, and you have the financial capacity to maintain them – as long as they apply for the payment during the required time period.
The court considers various factors when deciding on an application for Spousal Maintenance, including:
One of the main reasons someone’s application for Spousal Maintenance might be unsuccessful is if they have married someone else since their divorce – this means they do not require the support of their previous partner.
Once the amount has been determined by the court, then there are various ways that Spousal Maintenance payments are made. The most common way is monthly or weekly payments to take care of the spouse’s daily living costs – these can be a specific amount paid in cash or through the bank, or they can be made through the payment of expenses like mortgage payments or bills.
Sometimes Spousal Maintenance is part of a family law property settlement, and therefore it can be paid as a lump sum at the same time – this would mean that there are no more payments to the spouse afterwards. You can also pay it through the use of an asset, such as having the spouse live in the house up until property settlement, or letting them use the car.
The duration of the payments is determined on a case by case basis, and it can be for an indefinite amount of time, or there could be a certain agreed upon end date.
Applying for Spousal Maintenance is a complex and confusing process, and if it is an urgent matter you will need to figure it out fairly quickly, so you will need the help of an expert family lawyer. Also, if you have been served Spousal Maintenance documents from your former spouse, and you wish to contest the terms, then it is a good idea to enlist the assistance of a professional. There are qualified family lawyers in Perth who will be able to assess your situation, explain all of the details and tell you what you need to do.
Please note that this article is not to be used as a replacement for professional legal advice, we recommend that you always contact a qualified lawyer to discuss these topics.