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Spouse maintenance: Australia’s answer to alimony

Spousal maintenance is a payment of money from one former partner to another after the breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship.  It is the Australian version of what is commonly referred to in other countries, such as the USA, as ‘alimony’.

In Australia, spousal maintenance is governed by the Family Law Act 1975 which outlines the circumstances in which a court can order one party to make payments to the other.  Under the Family Law Act, the court can order spousal maintenance in a variety of circumstances. Spousal maintenance can be paid as a lump sum or as a periodic payment; and can be ordered on a long term (final) basis or a shorter term (interim) basis.

Generally when considering an application for spousal maintenance, the court will look at the financial circumstances of both parties, their needs and their ability to be self-sufficient.  The court may consider factors such as the age and health of each party, their capacity to work, the length of the marriage or relationship and the contributions of each party to the marriage or relationship.  The court may also consider whether one party has the capacity to pay spousal maintenance and whether there is a need for the other party to receive it.  This need may be due to the other party not being able to support themselves financially due to age, health or other factors.  

Each matter will be determined on its own facts.  Our family law team can work with you to consider your individual circumstances and whether spouse maintenance might be an appropriate consideration for you.

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