How Spousal Maintenance is Calculated in Australia

While knowledge concerning child support payments is commonplace, many Australians do not realise that in situations where a relationship has broken down or ended, spousal maintenance may also apply.

Spousal maintenance is the legal responsibility that one party may have to support their spouse, or former partner following the breakdown of a de facto relationship.

If you are involved in a relationship which has broken down, here are some common questions you may have concerning the availability of spousal support and whether a spousal maintenance calculator can help you determine the amount you could be paying or receiving.

When Is Someone Entitled to Spousal Maintenance?

The Family Law Act 1975 governs spousal maintenance. A party may have a legal obligation to provide financial support to the other if the Court finds that the person seeking maintenance cannot meet their own reasonable expenses, and that the other partner has the capacity to reasonably assist them in meeting those expenses.

Spousal maintenance and support can be claimed irrespective of the gender of the parties involved, meaning that it can be claimed by husbands, wives and either party in same-sex couples. You also do not have to have been married.

There are strict time limits on how long you can apply for spousal maintenance after a relationship has ended. If the relationship in question was a marriage, you must file your Court application within 12 months of the date your divorce became final. If the relationship in question was de facto, you must make an application within 2 years of the date of your separation.

Is There A Spousal Maintenance Calculator I Can Use to Determine Potential Payments?

As with many areas involving family law, there is no exact equation for determining how much financial support should be paid. If the parties involved cannot reach an agreement, an application can be made by the potentially entitled party to a Family Law Court. The Court will take a number of factors into consideration to determine liability and subsequent payments, including:

• The earning capacity of each party;
• The resources of both parties: including income and property
• The status of either party as being a primary carer for a child;
• Obligations of either party to support another person;
• Prior financial agreements which have been made between the parties
• The length of the relationship between parties, and whether the relationship affected either parties’ capacity for earning

It is worth noting that despite the many considerations, the most fundamental factor in determining spousal support will typically be an assessment of both parties’ income and expenses.

Due to this imprecise and case-by-case nature of determining spousal maintenance obligations, there is no exact spousal support calculator which you can rely on. While there are spousal support calculators online which may provide rough estimates based on income level, it is wiser to seek appropriate legal advice if you are in a situation which may involve spousal maintenance payments.

An experienced lawyer can consider the various determining factors and provide a reasonable estimate of the payment amount you may be liable to pay, or to receive. To ask us for a schedule which can help you calculate your weekly income and ongoing expenses, click here and send us an email with your request.

What Are the Different Ways Spousal Maintenance Can Be Paid?

Once the court has determined an appropriate amount to be paid in spousal maintenance, there are numerous ways the support can be paid, including:

• A one-off lump sum payment
• Regular payments for a specific period, for example, weekly, fortnightly or monthly; and/or
• In the form of expenses such as loan repayments, accommodation, vehicle-related costs or health insurance.

Would Like to Speak to Someone Regarding Spousal Maintenance Calculations?

At Pullos Lawyers, our legal team is experienced with issues involving spousal maintenance and support, and can assist with spousal support calculations to provide payment estimates. We can also assist in making or defending a spousal maintenance application. For further reading, you can also check out our post on spousal maintenance FAQs. To speak to one of our lawyers today, please get in touch via email, or call us in our Gold Coast office on (07) 5526 3646, or in Brisbane on (07) 3144 1641.