Spousal maintenance cases usually involve a partner providing financial support to his/her ex-partner. Not only do ex-partners have to think of child support, but also they might need to pay spousal maintenance after divorce or separation.
Parties who receive spousal maintenance are those who get financial support paid by their former partners as they cannot meet their own reasonable expenses or living expenses after a divorce or separation. They can receive the payment as periodic spousal maintenance or as a lump sum maintenance to improve their financial circumstances.
Truly, this sounds like good news for the parent receiving the money, since they will receive monetary support. However, they must prove that they are unable to financially sustain themselves to succeed. Family law cases can be extremely complicated. This applies to both divorce after marriage or separation in cases of a de facto relationship.
Successful applications typically require an imbalance in the parties’ income levels and/or earning potential. According to the Family Law Act, if required, the court can make interim spousal maintenance order or final orders against the other party. This article will discuss points regarding who can make spousal maintenance claim , who may need to pay spousal maintenance, and an example of spousal maintenance cases.
Spousal Maintenance Cases in Family Law
People who will provide monetary support don’t have an obligation to help the other party to maintain their former lifestyle. Hence, this raises the question of what are reasonable grounds for spousal maintenance cases. According to the Family Law Act (1975), parties who are more financially stable have the responsibility to provide financial assistance to their former spouse or former de facto partner. A party may receive spousal maintenance if they:
- Are taking care of young children, thus leaving them little to no time to look for work in order to support themselves;
- Had to resign from their work for a significant time, thus having lost the skill, or is too old to work again; and
- Is unable to work due to physical or mental incapacity.
The Family Law Act states that married spouses must submit applications for spousal maintenance to the Court within 12 months of the issuance of their divorce decree. Meanwhile, de facto partners must submit an application within 24 months i.e. two years of the end of their relationship. A party may have permission to submit an application for spousal maintenance outside of specified time windows.
However, leave is not assured, thus applicants must make sure they adhere to the aforementioned deadlines. Every circumstance and relationship under family law is different and faces a variety of challenges. That’s why it is always wise to seek legal advice from a qualified family lawyer.
Example of Spousal Maintenance Cases in Australia
One example of spousal maintenance cases is that of former de facto partners Grandou vs Grandou (2002). Lyndall Ruth Thompson (now uses Thompson as her surname) wanted Fabrice John Grandou to pay maintenance of $80,000. However, on December 19, 1999. Fabrice argued that he would only give the money if Lyndall transferred her interest in the house location to him.
They had daughters namely Clementine Celeste and Capucine Celeste. Since the couple’s separation in 1998, both daughters lived with Lyndall while still allowing visitation from the father, Fabrice. The Family Court of Australia granted Lyndall custody of her children on October 22, 1999.
What Are Their Financial Resources?
When discussing spousal maintenance cases, it’s important to identify both parties’ assets from the start of their relationship. Lyndall owned a 1974 Datsun motor car along with $2000 in savings. On the other hand, Fabrice had $10,000 in savings while in the possession of a Suzuki Sierra motor vehicle which is $6000 in value.
There is also an unused and unregistered Honda CRV motor vehicle for which Fabrice is paying through loans. The motor vehicle currently sits in the garage of Lyndall’s grandmother in Chester Hill. Moreover, Fabrice had a one-half interest in two apartments in Paris and another half interest in Cannes, France.
He also had furniture and items in Coffs Harbour where Lyndall and their children are residing. Fabrice, having a background in physiotherapy, entered into a partnership in a physiotherapy practice in September 1993. He also conducted separate practices which involved outcalls related to physiotherapy.
Fabrice’s Financial and Non-financial Contributions
Lyndall and Fabrice decided to reside in Coffs Harbour with Fabrice paying the rent in June 1990 at the start of their relationship. Fabrice also secured this home with his own funds. Both partners then rented a unit in Cronulla and decided to jointly own the property until their relationship ended in 1998.
They purchased the property along with stamp duty and legal costs with a grand total of $405,000. Both partners secured this purchase through loans and secured a mortgage of $200,000. Ever since the de facto partners acquired the property, Fabrice was the only one paying the:
- Mortgage payments;
- Council rates;
- Water rates;
- Electric bills;
- Telephone bills; and
- Insurances and maintenance of the house.
Lyndall, the wife argued that she made contributions like cleaning and improving the Coffs Harbour property. However, Fabrice also defended that he also contributed to the maintenance and improvement of the property. Lyndall said that she contributed $5000 to the mortgage of the Coffs Harbour property. However, Lyndall was unable to provide any material to back this claim.
The Judge’s Decision Regarding Financial Support
Fabrice proved that he was able to go above and beyond the duties of a breadwinner and a homemaker. Lyndall, on the other hand, still made claims that she should receive spousal support of $750 a week until their children attend school age. However, the judges weren’t satisfied with her claims that she is unable to support herself because of her childcare duties.
This is because Lyndall was receiving enough payments from the Child Support Agency to maintain and support her children. She was also able to acquire a new motor vehicle, which resulted in her incurring a debt for which she pays $400 a month. Hence, the courts saw that she is capable of supporting her children and decided to dismiss her appeal of receiving spousal maintenance and requiring her former husband pay in the form of support.
Seeking Family Law Advice With JB Solicitors
The above-mentioned case shows that no one has the automatic right to obtain monetary support. Courts found out that Lyndall was able to provide support on her own without Fabrice’s help. Fabrice, on the other hand, covered so many payments just to support the whole family. Indeed, spousal maintenance applications will require the help of an experienced legal professional.
That’s why JB Solicitors is here to help identify your finances, properties, and efforts, and plan out steps during spousal maintenance payment and other family law issues. We highly encourage clients to avail our mediation services in case they want to come to a peaceful agreement. Our fixed fees will assist people to get the best legal advice. We also represent our clients in the family court when required.
Contact us today to know how spousal maintenance payments work in Australia.