What is spousal maintenance?
This is a responsibility you or your ex-partner might have to financially support (maintain) the other person after your separation or divorce. It is different to child maintenance.
Generally, you will only have to pay maintenance if your ex-partner cannot support themselves and you have the capacity to contribute to their support. You can make regular payments, or pay once in a lump sum payment.
You may be able to get maintenance if you are:
- separated or divorced from a spouse
- separated from a de facto partner after 1 March 2009.
If you were in a de facto relationship under Queensland law, and you separated before 1 March 2009, you have no right to maintenance, although your future needs are taken into account when property is divided.
It is a good idea to agree on maintenance when you are negotiating a property settlement so that all financial issues are sorted out at the same time. Get legal advice before agreeing to a financial order. See Property and financial agreements.
What if we can't agree?
In most cases, the law says that you should try to resolve disputes before you go to court. A Family Relationship Centre, Legal Aid Queensland or another family dispute resolution service may be able to help you and your ex-partner reach agreement on maintenance arrangements.
If you still cannot agree, you can apply to the court for a financial order. You will need to show that you need maintenance and your ex-partner is able to pay maintenance.
The court will make financial orders based on what is fair to both people. If an order for maintenance is made, each person listed in the order must follow it.
You can apply for maintenance at any time after you separate. This can be when you decide to separate but have not left the house, at the time of separation or at any time afterwards.
There are time limits.
You must apply for a court order:
- within one year from the date your divorce was finalised
- within two years from the date your de facto relationship ended.
You can only apply to the court for maintenance after this time in special circumstances. Get legal advice.
When do maintenance payments stop?
The right to regular payments of maintenance ends if you get married again, unless there are special circumstances. It may also end if your:
- financial situation improves, for example because you are in a new de facto relationship
- responsibility for caring for children changes significantly
- earning capacity improves.
To end maintenance, you need to apply to the court to vary (change) your maintenance orders. You can do this even if you have final orders.
Acknowledgement - Prepared using fact sheets which are copyright to the Commonwealth of Australia and National Legal Aid.
Do I need legal advice?
You may need legal advice if you
- are considering agreeing to or signing a financial order
- cannot agree about how to divide property and assets and are thinking about going to court
- need to apply for spousal maintenance but time limits have expired
- want to apply to court to vary (change) your maintenance orders.
Where can I get legal advice
Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice on spousal maintenance.
The following organisations may be able to give legal advice on your matter.
Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to see if they can help with your matter.
Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation.
Family Relationship Advice Line provides information about the family law system in Australia.
Who else can help?
These organisations may also be able to assist with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.
Family Relationship Centres provide information, referrals, dispute resolution and advice on parenting after separation.
Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia deals with family law cases. Court forms and information on family court processes are accessible from their website