Have you recently separated or divorced? Are you wondering what is alimony in Australia? Are there such provisions in Australia? As family lawyers, our clients often ask us “what is alimony in Australia?’
In most western countries like the United States, alimony refers to the financial support that a person provides to their former spouse. These are generally court-ordered payments.
In Australia, there is a similar provision, however, it is not called alimony in Australia. Essentially, the answer to the question ‘what is alimony is Australia?’ is that alimony is called spousal maintenance or spousal support in Australia.
Spousal maintenance is the financial support payment that one party makes to their former spouse to help them support themselves until they can manage on their own.
Television shows have popularised the idea of alimony. In such shows, one party pays alimony to the other party for the rest of their lives. While this may be true in the American legal landscape, in Australian family law, we handle these matters differently.
In this article, we will discuss the question of ‘what is alimony in Australia’ in further detail by understanding how spousal support payments work in our country.
What Is Alimony In Australia: Spousal Maintenance Payments
As mentioned above, in Australia, we have spousal maintenance payments that are similar to alimony payments. Following a separation or divorce, one party pays spousal maintenance to their former spouse to financially support them.
The party paying spousal maintenance can make payments either after receiving court orders, or by making agreements with their former spouse.
If a party makes an application for spousal maintenance in the court, the court will consider many factors before making any binding orders.
Given below is a list of factors the courts consider:
- Physical health of both parties;
- Age of the parties;
- What would be considered a ‘suitable standard of living’;
- The ability of each party to get gainful employment;
- In case there are children, and which party is looking after the needs of the children; and
- The effect of the marriage (if any) on the parties’ capabilities to work.
Section 75 of the Family Law Act (1975) provides a list of other factors that the court considers before making any orders for spousal maintenance.
When considering the question ‘what is alimony in Australia?’ the most important distinction to make between alimony and spousal maintenance is as follows:
While alimony can be paid throughout the person’s life, the aim of spousal maintenance payments is to provide support only until the other party can get back on their feet.
It is not uncommon for one party to be financially dependent on the other party during a marriage or de facto relationship. Therefore, the financially dependent party can find it very difficult during an event like a divorce or separation.
This is why spousal maintenance payments are temporary payments until the payee is able to become financially independent. The types of orders that the court makes can differ from case to case.
Eligibility Requirements For Spousal Maintenance Payments
There are two main eligibility requirements to be able to claim spousal maintenance payments.
- The spouse who is to receive payment must establish need.
To obtain spousal maintenance, the party must establish need for the payment i.e. they must be unable to financially support themselves. This can happen either because they are unable to get gainful employment, or because they are looking after a child who is under 19 years of age.
- The spouse who is to make payments must have the capacity to pay.
The spouse who will need to make the payments must be able to do so reasonably. The court can assess the party’s income, expenditure, property and other financial resources. Based on these factors, the courts also determine the amount of spousal maintenance payable.
Importantly, apart from ‘what is alimony in Australia?’, another question that people often ask is ‘are there time limits to keep in mind?’
The answer is yes. When claiming spousal maintenance payments, each party must be aware of the time limits. Essentially, for couples who have divorced, spousal maintenance payments must be awarded within 12 months of the divorce.
On the other hand, for couples who have separated, spousal maintenance payments must be awarded within 24 months of separation.
Types Of Court-Ordered Spousal Maintenance Payments
The courts can make different orders, depending on the circumstances of the case. Moreover, the type of order can differ based on the factors mentioned above.
Some of the types of spousal maintenance orders that the court can make include:
- payment of lump sum;
- order transfer of property from one spouse (payer) to the other (payee);
- make a final order;
- order that the payer make periodic payments to the payee;
- make an order for a fixed term, for life, or until any further orders;
- impose reasonable terms and conditions; and
- other appropriate orders that the courts considers necessary
What Is Alimony In Australia: Can My Ex-Partner And I Reach Mutual Agreements About Spousal Maintenance Payments?
We have explored the question of ‘what is alimony in Australia.’ Now, can you and your former spouse make arrangements about spousal maintenance, rather than making applications to the court for the same?
Approaching courts is one way to claim spousal maintenance payments. However, if both parties agree, they can also include details about spousal maintenance payments in their consent orders.
Consent orders are also legally binding, therefore each party has to abide by the orders. But parties can themselves come up with payment arrangements for spousal maintenance if they are able to do so amicably.
Parties can include information about the amount of money payable, and can also discuss how the arrangement of payments – either as a lump sum payment, or periodic payments etc.
Seeking Advice From Family Lawyers
It is important to be aware of concepts such as spousal maintenance and child support. A divorce or separation can be stressful. These financial entitlements can help alleviate the stress that some parties feel.
At JB Solicitors, our family lawyers can help you understand your entitlements following the breakdown of your relationship. Moreover, we can also help the parties prepare binding agreements whenever required.
If you have more questions such as ‘what is alimony in Australia’, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. You can call our office on 1300 287 911.
Alternatively, contact us using our online enquiry form.