Firstly, “alimony” is not a term used in Australian family law. The term is an American one that many of us may have heard on TV or movies. In Australia, the entitlement one spouse may have to financial support after the relationship has ended is called spouse maintenance or spousal maintenance.

What is spouse maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is an “entitlement” of one spouse to financial support after a relationship has ended. Spouse maintenance arises where one spouse has a financial need that they cannot meet on their own income (not include any income tested pension) and the other spouse has the capacity to assist.

How long does spouse maintenance last?

The “liability” to pay spouse maintenance is designed to help people get back on their feet after separation. In some cases spouse maintenance is used to financially assist one spouse while they retrain to enter the workforce. Once they are able to obtain employment, the spouse maintenance payments may end.

Is there a time limit for applications for spouse maintenance?

If you are/were married you can only make an application to the Court to ask for spousal maintenance within 12 months of your divorce.

If you are/were in a de facto relationship you can only make an application to the Court to ask for spousal maintenance within 2 years of the end of the relationship.

I think I might be eligible for spouse maintenance, what should I do?

If you think you might have an entitlement to financial support from your former spouse, you should contact one of our family law specialists at Farrar Gesini Dunn. Similarly, if you think you might be liable to pay spouse maintenance and want to know what you need to do, you should contact us.

Victoria Blakeley is a Family Lawyer at Farrar Gesini Dunn, Canberra Office.