Spousal Maintenance (Financial Maintenance for Ex Partners)

What is Spousal Maintenance?

Maintenance is when a partner has to maintain their ex-partner financially after a relationship ends. It is different to child maintenance. Generally, people only have to pay maintenance if they can afford it and their ex-partner can’t support themselves.

You may receive or pay maintenance if:

  • you are separated or divorced from a spouse, or

  • you are separated from a de facto partner, including a same-sex partner, after 1 March 2009, or

  • your marriage has been annulled.

If you were in a de facto relationship and you separated before 1 March 2009, the right to maintenance depends on when you separated. 

Payments may be made periodically (for example, monthly) or in a lump sum. It’s a good idea to negotiate maintenance at the same time as your property settlement so all financial issues are sorted out together.

If you can’t agree about maintenance

In most cases, the law says that you should try to resolve disputes before you go to court. If you can’t agree about partner maintenance, there are family dispute resolution services that can help you.

If you still cannot agree, you can apply to the court for a financial order.

There are three types of applications for spousal maintenance:

  • An application for urgent maintenance (acknowledging an immediate need, without comprehensive consideration from the court);

  • An application for an interim order for maintenance (current need);

  • An application for a final order for spousal maintenance (future need).

Once an application has been brought, the court will consider whether the applicant is eligible for spousal maintenance.

The court will make financial orders based on what is fair to both people. If an order for maintenance is made, each person listed in the order must follow it.

Time limits

You must apply for a court order:

  • within one year from the date of your annulment,

  • within one year from the date your divorce order is final,

  • within two years from the date your de facto relationship ended.

You can only apply to the court for maintenance after this time in special circumstances.

When maintenance ends

The right to regular payments of maintenance ends:

  • if the person getting maintenance gets married again, unless there are special circumstances,

  • if the person paying maintenance dies.

It may also end if the person getting maintenance improves their financial situation because:

  • they are in a new de facto relationship,

  • their responsibility for caring for children changes significantly,

  • their earning capacity increases.

To end maintenance, you need to apply to the court to vary (change) your maintenance orders. You can do this even if you have final orders.

Get legal advice

Get legal advice before agreeing to a financial order. Every case is different. JANO + CO can help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities, and explain how the law applies to your situation. We are a fixed fee law firm that provides you with an affordable family law solution. Contact us for a free, no obligation legal consultation.