When one partner is struggling financially following a divorce or separation, they may claim spousal maintenance.
You may have heard of spousal maintenance, but what is it? Does spousal maintenance affect Centrelink benefits?
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of spousal maintenance, including its eligibility requirements and whether it has any impact on one’s Centrelink benefits.
An Introduction To Spousal Maintenance – What Is Spousal Maintenance?
The concept of spousal maintenance may seem a little farfetched to someone going through a divorce or separation, but it is exactly what it sounds like!
Before discussing whether or not spousal maintenance affects Centrelink benefits, it would be helpful to understand exactly what spousal maintenance is and what it does.
A successful claim for spousal maintenance means that one partner will typically have to provide regular financial payments to their former partner.
Although less common, the Court may order that certain items, including the home of the marriage, be sold and for the proceeds of that sale to be provided to the party requiring the benefit.
Spousal maintenance payments are made for:
- Allowing that partner to maintain a reasonable standard of living following a divorce or separation; and
- Financially aiding that partner to get back on their feet while they look for a job or pursue education
Are There Any Time Limits For Spousal Maintenance Applications?
Spousal maintenance applications can only be successful if it is determined that one party has the financial means to support the other and when an application is made within the appropriate period of a divorce or separation.
In the case of married couples, spousal maintenance must be awarded within 12 months of divorce under section 44 (3) of the Family Law Act 1975.
When it comes to a De facto separation, spousal maintenance must be awarded within 24 months of the date of separation. As per section 44(5) of the Family Law Act 1975.
Unlike in the case of divorce, narrowing down the exact date of separation in a de facto relationship can be difficult. This is because parties can disagree on such a matter for their benefit. The Family Court will require evidence from both parties such as financial documents, witness statements and photos to prove an exact date.
Centrelink Benefit Status And Spousal Maintenance
If you receive or will receive spousal maintenance payments, you are required to notify Centrelink. Centrelink will then reassess your entitlement to receive government benefits. In the government’s view, this is because if your former spouse can afford to support you financially, they should do so.
How this will affect your payments will depend on the type of government benefits you receive from Centrelink. Importantly, you should be aware that the Family Court will ignore any income-tested benefit you receive from Centrelink when assessing if you require financial support from your former partner.
If you have any concerns, you should speak to an experienced family lawyer to obtain a clearer understanding of your entitlements in your particular situation.
What Are Some Reasons To Obtain Spousal Maintenance?
Section 75 of the Family Law Act Provides an extensive list of matters that the Courts consider in determining a grant of spousal maintenance.
- The health state and age of each party;
- The extent to which the payment of maintenance can aid the payment receiver to re-establish themselves by undertaking further education, employment, or training to obtain a sufficient income;
- The income, property, and financial resources of both parties;
- The physical and mental capacity of the applicant to obtain employment;
- Any commitments of each party necessary to enable the receiver of the payment to support themselves, a child, or another person;
- The responsibilities of either party to support any other person;
- Whether either party has the care or control of a child of the marriage under 18 years of age;
- The eligibility of either party for a pension, allowance or benefit under the Commonwealth, State, Territory of another country;
- Any superannuation fund or scheme within or outside Australia;
- To maintain a standard of living that is reasonable in the circumstance;
- To enable a party to continue their role as a parent; and
- Whether either party is cohabitating with another and the financial circumstances relating to that cohabitation.
This list is not a complete account of matters that will be considered but merely some of the more common issues. Please do not hesitate to give us a call to see whether your circumstances qualify you for spousal maintenance.
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
When discussing whether spousal maintenance affects Centrelink benefits, it is essential to remember that it does. You should notify Centrelink as soon as possible if you are receiving spousal maintenance to avoid penalties or penalties sanctions.
If you have any further questions about spousal maintenance or any other family law matter, please not hesitate to contact us today.
Here at JB Solicitors, we’ll make the process as pain-free as possible. We have fixed-fee pricing for family law, giving you a clear sense of the costs from the start, and we will be sure to help you out every step of the way.
With years of experience under our belt, we pride ourselves on making each client’s family law experience as positive as possible.
Contact JB Solicitors today to speak with one of our friendly and experienced family lawyers.
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