When people separate, it is sometimes difficult for one partner to meet their reasonable needs following separation. We provide advice on whether pursuing a spousal maintenance claim is viable and the requirements which need to be met to establish such a claim.
Spousal Maintenance Claims
There are situations where one spouse/partner may be liable to financially maintain the other spouse/partner upon separation. Spousal maintenance claims arise where one spouse/partner has difficulty meeting their reasonable expenses upon separation and this difficulty has come about as a result of how the functions were divided during the relationship. Common situations where spousal maintenance claims arise are where one spouse/partner has remained at home to maintain the household or care for children or where one spouse/partner is completing training or education and thus not earning an income.
The following factors are taken into account when assessing a spousal maintenance claim:
- The division of functions within the relationship
- The likely earning capacity of each party
- The responsibilities of each party for care of any children
- The parties’ standard of living during the relationship
- Any physical or mental disability
- Any inability of a party to obtain work
- The undertaking of a reasonable period of education or training designed to increase earning capacity
If a spouse/partner has a spousal maintenance claim, it will result in payment of a periodical sum of money for a specified period of time. The amount to be paid will depend on each party’s income and expenses. The period of time for which payment is to be made will depend on the amount of time it takes for the claimant to get themselves into a position to meet their own reasonable expenses.
If there is a dispute about whether a spouse/partner is eligible for spousal maintenance, an application may be made to the Family Court for a spousal maintenance order. We generally try to negotiate to reach an agreement first and, failing that, Court proceedings are then considered.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although becoming less common, the receipt of spousal maintenance following separation remains an important resource for spouses and civil union partners who are unable to meet their own reasonable needs. A spouse or civil union partner does not, however, automatically qualify for maintenance upon separation; they must fall within certain qualifying circumstances. Where the circumstances do exist the length of time payments are made is determined on a case-by-case basis.
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