Spousal support is the amount paid by one partner to their ex-spouse following a separation or divorce. On both sides of the divorce it is strongly advised that family lawyers are used to guide and advise, as the long terms financial well-being of both partners is at stake.
Spousal support is the acknowledgment, in a marriage or de facto partnership, of the mutual responsibility of both partners to support each another. This is also deemed to apply even after they separate and divorce.
Spousal support is typically charged every month and lasts for either a fixed number of years or for the rest of the life of the partners, called a ‘joint life order’. Regardless of the specific length of time, the required amount of support can change considerably from case to case, and the amount of support can alter due to a change in circumstances
Spousal care and periodic payments typically cease when one of the former spouses dies. Other reasons that they stop are when the court issues an instruction to halt the payments, or the spouse who receives spousal support remarries or enters a de facto relationship.
A request for spousal support can be made if, following a separation and the onset of divorce proceedings, one partner believes they are going to struggle financially, their quality of life is going to diminish significantly, or they are going to be positioned at a severe financial disadvantage.
There is no actual formula that simply can be applied to provide a figure of the spousal support that has to be paid, as there are so many variables to be considered. In principle, the payment must be reasonable and affordable for the paying side, plus the financial needs of the payee receiving the support must be valid.
Some of the things which must be taken into consideration before calculating spousal support are net incomes, tax liabilities, expenses, current assets, and the relative standard of living of each person. A comprehensive budget that displays the revenue and expenditures for the next six months can be used to support a claim.
The court recognises the applicant’s interests and the respondent’s willingness to compensate and when deciding whether to make any decision concerning spousal support, the courts would weigh a wide variety of facts, including:
- Child support payable
- Long term health condition of the parties
- Age of both parties
- Capacity to obtain jobs
- Revenue, properties, and financial capital of each party
- Period of marriage
Is It Essential To Go To Court To Seek Spousal Support?
Parties do not necessarily have to go to court to settle arrangements relating to the support of either of them. Spouses or ex-spouses have a variety of ways to work out spousal support agreements by way of a contractual financial agreement.
If they both are able to agree the amounts of spousal support to be paid, any time limits and the circumstances in which they agreement can be altered, they need not necessarily attend court for a full spousal support hearing.
In Australia, the more conventional marital arrangement, where one person is a primary earner, and the other is a homemaker or caregiver, is still perceived to be the rule, but this perspective has increasingly changed over time. That means that the joint income and assets are increasingly what is being discussed rather than just one of the spouses being the main contributor.
The court can make maintenance orders including:
- a lump sum payment, either in one amount or instalments
- a weekly, monthly, yearly or other period sum
- specifying a transfer or settlement of property.