Spousal Maintenance in Family Law

It is a simple fact of life that two households are much more expensive to run than one household. It is relatively common for one party, usually that party who has been the primary homemaker and carer for the children, to not be able to afford their day to day expenses.

There is an obligation on all parents to pay child support for the benefit of their children in accordance with an assessment, variation of an assessment or agreement. As soon as possible after separation, the party with the primary care of the children should consider making an application to the Child Support Agency to assess what child support is payable. If either party is receiving government benefits, it is likely they will be required to make an application for child support in order to achieve their full benefit.

However, in some circumstances, one party may not be able to support him or herself and the children even with child support received from the other party. In those circumstances it may be possible for that party to receive maintenance for their support from the other party. Such maintenance may be in various forms including the other party:

  • Making mortgage payments for the home in which that party lives;
  • Paying various expenses of that party;
  • Paying that party a sum of money on a periodic basis;
  • Paying that party a “lump sum” of money.

In the absence of court orders to the contrary, there is no absolute requirement for one party to maintain the other, and whether they should will depend on the circumstances of the case. If it is not possible to reach an agreement about the payment of maintenance, you should talk to your lawyer about whether an application to the court is appropriate.

In some cases where a case has commenced at court, it may be appropriate for one party to seek an order for the other party to pay an amount to cover a proportion of that party’s legal fees. This sort of application is usually only relevant where the other party is in control of the assets of the parties and/or earns significantly more than that party.

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