Hi, I’m Vanessa Mathews, and I want to give you some information today about spousal maintenance or support.
Many people don’t realize that the law requires one partner, either a husband or wife or de facto partner, where people are not legally married, to support each other financially. It’s not okay for one spouse to suddenly decide he or she is no longer giving any money to the other person. And even if you are divorced or the de facto relationship ends, the partner who was giving support must continue giving this financial help.
Now, the information I’m giving you applies to both married couples who divorce and de facto couples, after their relationship has ended. If you can come up with your own agreement, that’s the best way to proceed. But many people struggle to figure this one out. The law has rules and conditions for when financial support has to be given, and even how much, even after the relationship ends.
The court asks two basic questions. The first is whether or not one of the partners needs financial support or is this person able to support him or herself? But even if this person needs financial help, the judge will still ask a second question, which is, ‘Can the other partner pay me support?’ So how does a court decide if someone is entitled to support?
And how does the court decide how much money should be paid? The judge is going to consider a number of factors. He or she may look at the age of the person asking for help, and their ability to work. If one spouse or partner raised the children and is now, say, 50, with no work experience, the court might decide that he or she will have a harder time finding work at their age. So the judge might decide this person should get help. The court will also look at the person’s mental and physical health. Sometimes a person simply can’t work or cannot work in a job that will earn enough. If there are children, the court will consider who they live with, and give help accordingly.
The court also has to decide what standard of living is appropriate in each case. Now, there are a number of differences between de facto couples and couples who are legally married. There are a number of conditions that must be met for de facto couples in order for maintenance to be required. Also, de facto couples have up to two years after their relationship ends to request maintenance, while married couples have to make this request within 12 months after the divorce.
The aim of maintenance is to provide for the partner who needs it. So if a person remarries or starts a new de facto relationship, the ex-partner is no longer responsible. Their requirement to pay maintenance ends.
People often ask if they can get a tax deduction if they pay maintenance or if they have to pay income tax on maintenance they receive. The answer to both questions is no. There aren’t any tax implications for either person regarding maintenance.
I’ve tried give you some of the basics here. There are a lot of conditions and rules on maintenance, so I strongly recommend you seek advice from a lawyer specializing in family law. I’m Vanessa Mathews, for Mathews Family Law & Mediation Services.