When someone pays money to their husband or wife after separation or divorce, this is called spousal maintenance. It has different names in different countries, such as alimony, spousal support or aliment. Spousal maintenance is designed to provide financial support to a person who, since their separation, cannot adequately support themselves.
It comes under the category of financial orders in family law, often part of a property settlement to make the result just and equitable for both parties. Spousal maintenance may be a single lump-sum payment or a series of payments made on a regular basis. As with other types of orders, you can only make a court application for spousal maintenance within a certain time frame.
You can apply immediately after separation, but the final limit differs for married and de facto couples. De facto couples have two years from the date of separation in which to file for spousal maintenance, while married couples have up until one year after the finalisation of their divorce. After this, you must seek the court’s permission to make an application.
There are several factors that the court takes into consideration when determining whether to make an order for spousal maintenance. The main points are the applicant’s need for financial support and the respondent’s capacity to pay it. For both spouses, the court considers age, health, ability to earn an income, current income, with whom any children live and what is a suitable standard of living.
It unlikely that the court will order for spousal maintenance to be paid indefinitely. They may include an order for the application to be reviewed in a few years’ time. When a recipient of spousal maintenance remarries, they are no longer entitled to continue receiving the payments from their former spouse.