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Do you understand how spousal maintenance works?

Spousal support can be expensive, making it important to get the right advice.

Going through a separation is a tough process for everyone involved, especially when it comes to financial issues. One area in particular which individuals need to understand is spousal maintenance.

So what is spousal maintenance and how does it work? 

When two individuals are in either a de facto relationship or are married, the parties are financially responsible for one another. Following a separation, if one party is unable to financially support themselves, the Courts may order the other party to provide for their ongoing support. However, there is no immediate right to spousal maintenance.

Time limits apply. Married couples need to apply within 12 months of the finalisation of their divorce, while those in a de facto relationship can apply up to two years after the relationship has ended.

As a general rule, individuals will only have to pay spousal support if their former partner is unable to financially support themselves and they have the capacity to meet their former partner's reasonable needs. Any changes in the former partner's financial position will have an impact on the spousal maintenance payments.

For example, if the receiving party enter into a new marriage or de facto relationship, or the children they are caring for become adults and move out of home, the amount of spousal maintenance can change and/or cease. A new job or increase in income can also eliminate the need for ongoing spousal support.

Each case depends on its own circumstances and there is no fixed rate of support. Nor is spousal support an ongoing indefinite payment being limited to a fixed period of time. 

Regardless of which stage you are at in this process, it is incredibly valuable for individuals to seek legal advice from a family law expert. This can be a complex area of the law and it is crucial that individuals get the right guidance.