What is maintenance?

Maintenance is financial support that is paid by one former spouse or domestic partner to the other. It can also be paid to a current spouse or domestic partner. Maintenance is usually provided to a former partner in circumstances where they are unable to adequately or sufficiently support themselves. It may need to be paid if you or your former partner cares for young or disabled children, cannot work because of ill health, or have been out of the workforce for a long time and cannot secure employment.

You will often hear the term ‘alimony’ in American films and on television programmes. In Australia, we use the term ‘maintenance’.


Do children affect maintenance?

You do not need to have children under the age of 18 to be eligible for spousal maintenance. The needs of any children of the relationship may be considered in determining whether a maintenance order is appropriate and may affect the amount. Financial support for children is usually provided for by another order of the Court.


Eligibility for maintenance

You may not be eligible if you have married another person or entered into a serious de facto relationship. The circumstances of any new de facto relationship will usually need to be examined by the Court.

You may lose your eligibility for any existing maintenance if either of these things has happened. You may also no longer be eligible if you or your former partner experience a significant change in financial circumstances. This includes if your former partner loses their job, suffers a salary reduction, or becomes unable to work because of illness or for other reasons. It may also occur if you otherwise become self-sufficient, such as by entering into a more lucrative job. You or your former partner may make applications to vary or discharge maintenance Orders and they are dealt with on their own merits.


Final points

If you wish to apply for maintenance, you must generally do so within one year of a divorce becoming absolute. If you were in a de facto relationship, you usually have to apply within two years of the separation.

You should seek legal advice before applying for maintenance, agreeing to pay maintenance, or resisting a claim for maintenance. Our lawyers will help to ensure you get the best possible deal out of any claims for maintenance.