Spousal Maintenance Lawyer Melbourne

Spousal Maintenance: Understanding Your Options

When a relationship breaks down, one party may need ongoing financial support from the other. This is where spousal maintenance comes in. In Australia, spousal maintenance is governed by the Family Law Act 1975, which sets out the rules and guidelines for determining who is entitled to receive spousal maintenance and how much they should receive.

What is Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is a payment made by one spouse or de facto partner to the other for financial support after the relationship has ended. It is intended to help the receiving party meet their reasonable living expenses, which can include things like rent, food, utilities, and other essential costs.

Types of Spousal Maintenance Payments

Spousal maintenance payments can be ordered on either a periodic or lump sum basis.

Periodic Spousal Maintenance Payments

Periodic spousal maintenance payments are made on a regular basis, usually for a specific period of time, to help the receiving party meet their everyday living expenses. The court will consider the financial circumstances of both parties when determining whether periodic payments are appropriate, and for how long they should continue.

Lump Sum Spousal Maintenance Payments

Lump sum spousal maintenance payments can be ordered by the court in situations where periodic payments are not appropriate. This might be because the paying party is unable to make regular payments, or because the receiving party would prefer a one-time payment to meet their financial needs. The receiving party must use the lump sum payment for their reasonable living expenses, and if the funds are wasted, further spousal maintenance payments may not be considered by the court.

Interim and Urgent Spousal Maintenance Payments

Interim spousal maintenance payments can be ordered by the court in situations where one party has an immediate need for financial assistance. Urgent spousal maintenance payments can also be ordered by the court in cases where the receiving party is in immediate need of financial assistance. In both cases, the court will consider the financial circumstances of both parties when making its decision.

When Do Spousal Maintenance Payments End?

Spousal maintenance payments are usually determined for a specific period of time, either through a financial agreement or a court order. It is rare for spousal maintenance payments to be paid indefinitely. If a court order has been made for spousal maintenance payments, they will typically end if either party dies or remarries or re-partners. However, in special circumstances, the court may use its discretion to continue spousal maintenance payments.

Factors That Can Affect Spousal Maintenance Payments

There are several factors that can affect spousal maintenance payments, including:

  1. The length of the relationship
  2. The income, earning capacity, and financial resources of both parties
  3. The age and health of both parties
  4. The standard of living established during the relationship
  5. The care arrangements for any children of the relationship
  6. Any other relevant factors, such as negative contributions or waste arguments.

Negative Contributions or Waste Arguments

Negative contributions or waste arguments refer to situations where one party’s actions have resulted in a loss to the net asset pool. For example, if one party has gambled away a substantial amount of money, resulting in a loss of assets, this might be considered a negative contribution. Similarly, if one party has wasted assets through extravagant spending or poor financial decisions, this might also be considered waste.

Section 75(2)(o) of the Family Law Act 1975 allows the court to take into account any other factor that it considers relevant to the division of property, including negative contributions and waste arguments. It’s important to note that this is a complex area of family law, and obtaining legal advice is highly recommended if you are considering making an argument about waste or negative contributions.

Time Limitations for Spousal Maintenance

If you are considering making an application for spousal maintenance, it’s important to be aware of the time limitations involved.

For a married couple, an application for spousal maintenance must be made within one year from the date the divorce order becomes final. For a de facto couple, the time limit is two years from the date of separation.

If you miss the time limit, you will need to apply to the Court for permission to commence proceedings out of time. In your application, you will need to explain why you failed to commence the proceedings within the required time limit and demonstrate that failing to make an order for spousal maintenance would cause you hardship.


Spousal maintenance can be a complex and sensitive issue, but it’s an important part of the family law system that helps to ensure fairness and support for those who need it. Whether you are considering making an application for spousal maintenance, or you are the paying party in a spousal maintenance order, it’s important to seek the advice of a qualified family lawyer who can guide you through the process and help you achieve the best possible outcome for your situation.

If you are looking for a family law firm that can provide expert advice and representation in spousal maintenance matters, consider contacting the team at Shane McClure. Our experienced family lawyers can help you understand your rights and obligations, and work with you to achieve a fair and equitable outcome in your spousal maintenance matter.

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