Spousal Maintenance Payments In Uncertain Times

Sometimes the breakdown of a long-term de facto relationship or marriage can financial hardship.

Under the Family Law Act 1975, Australian Courts have the power to make an Order for a former spouse (whether married or de facto) to pay to the other spouse a periodic or lump sum Spousal Maintenance payment/s. This is a common occurrence for separating couples, although the appropriate amount of Spousal Maintenance paid varies from case to case.

During these tough financial times we are seeing more Applications for Spousal Maintenance as many people have had their financial positions effected by Covid-19 restrictions. Likewise, people may need to vary or discharge their Spousal Maintenance Orders because they can no longer afford to pay the ordered amount, or any maintenance at all.

Indeed, in last year’s case of Blevins v Blevins [2019] FCCA 1923, the Court held that (under certain circumstances) an application can be brought for spousal maintenance, even 20 years after a divorce, so long as the Applicant for Spousal Maintenance can show their need for spousal maintenance, and that other party has the ability to pay.

When considering if Spousal Maintenance is appropriate for you, it is important that you can establish your need for funds. When considering any entitlement to maintenance, the Court will disregard any means tested Centrelink pension that the applicant has. This means that the amount of money the applicant receives from Centrelink will have no bearing on what spousal maintenance the Court awards.

However, the amount of spousal maintenance the Court orders can – but will not always – alter the amount of money the recipient receives from Centrelink. So if you are considering applying for spousal maintenance, the impact of any other payments on any Centrelink payments, will need to be considered before making the Court Application or entering into an Agreement for Spousal Maintenance.

If you are going through a family law separation – whether you were married or de facto – and your financial situation has changed due to Covid-19, Argent Law can assist you to obtain Spousal Maintenance (including increased Spousal Maintenance) or to reduce or stop paying spousal maintenance. We understand how important financial certainty is for our clients in these uncertain and difficult times.

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