Here in south-east Queensland, actor Johnny Depp and his wife Amber Heard have been in the news for a number of reasons.  Firstly, for the couple’s reported failure to declare their two dogs Pistol and Boo to Australian immigration authorities when they arrived at the Gold Coast and, more recently, following the breakdown of their marriage.1 Johnny Depp is a successful Actor who earns a large income, and reportedly after filing for divorce, his wife Amber made a considerable claim for spousal maintenance.  This claim was later withdrawn, reportedly for a variety of reasons,2 however this high profile example draws attention to the important concept of spousal maintenance.

In Australia, spousal maintenance refers to financial support given by a party to a marriage or de facto relationship to the other party of that marriage or de facto relationship who is unable to adequately meet their reasonable financial needs.

During a marriage or a de facto relationship, one person may take time off work for a variety of reasons, such as for maternity leave, to become the primary carer for the children or to attend to the running of the household.  In the event of separation, this time off work often leads to that person being economically disadvantaged, due to the loss of income or promotions that would have been achieved if they were to have remained in the workforce.  The purpose of spousal maintenance is therefore to adjust for any disparity between the incomes or earning capacities of spouses based on their respective needs.

In determining spousal maintenance orders, the Court considers factors such as age, state of health, income, property and financial resources of both of the people in the relationship and primary care of children of the relationship. Spousal maintenance orders can be made by consent or after a contested hearing, and be made by the Court urgently if necessary. Spousal maintenance can be in the form of periodic or ongoing payments for a period of time.

If you have recently separated from your spouse or de facto partner or are thinking of separating and need more information about spousal maintenance, such as your entitlements or obligations, contact us today for a reduced fixed fee initial consultation to discuss your options.  We are experienced in spousal maintenance matters and can help you obtain the support you need to move into the next phase of your life.

By Daphne Chiwaya, Lawyer, Daykin Family Law – first published on 26 July 2016