Maintenance – The Basics
Maintenance is available to those who were married, and also those who were part of a de facto couple. While there is no automatic right to maintenance, the court may choose to issue an order for maintenance if the facts indicate that it is proper. When faced with whether to issue an order for maintenance, the court will consider a myriad of factors, such as the ability of one party to pay, the standard of living of the spouses, the income capacity of the receiving spouse and whether it has been negatively impacted by the marriage, any child support being paid, and the health of the spouses.
When an order for maintenance is issued, it is intended to be temporary. The ultimate objective of maintenance is to help the financially disadvantaged party to reach a point of self-support. Most maintenance orders do not last more than three or four years, as the court ultimately wants all parties to reach a point of financial independence so the relationship can be finalised.
If certain specific circumstances have arisen since the order has been issued, the order may be varied. The court may only take this action, however, if one of the circumstances proscribed in the Family Law Act has occurred. An example of when an order for maintenance may be varied is where the cost of living has changed to justify a variation.
Orders for maintenance will terminate upon the occurrence of an event, for instance if either party dies or remarries. However, termination of an order does not affect your right to collect an arrearage.