Determining Eligibility for Spousal Maintenance
After a couple breaks up, one spouse may need to have extra financial support to pay their bills because they don’t make enough money to support themselves. They may ask for spousal maintenance to tide them over until they can get a better job, or finish their education so they can make more money. While it was common for a woman to receive support after a divorce, a man can also get spousal maintenance if he qualifies.
Qualifying for Spousal Maintenance
One of the spouses can request maintenance to ensure reasonable needs are met if they are unable to do so themselves. However, the former spouse must be in a financial position to pay maintenance or the court will not approve the request. Information will be gathered to make sure the maintenance payments are fair for both parties.
Some of the information requested from both parties includes:
- Income, financial resources, assets and debt information.
- Both parties’ ages and medical conditions.
- Earning ability and how it was affected by marriage, if at all.
- The standard for suitable living.
- If there are children, with whom they will live.
Assigning spousal maintenance is not automatically done and it could be that neither party needs it. However, if one of the spouses doesn’t work, or only works part-time, then he/she may need support until his/her financial situation improves. Gathering the above information will help the court make a decision on if, and how much, spousal maintenance should be paid.
Applying for Maintenance
Although the couple can negotiate spousal maintenance during the time they are in mediation, if they cannot agree, then the party seeking maintenance can apply for it through the courts. The application needs to be submitted within 12 months of the divorce being finalised. When the application is submitted, the court will request the above information so they can make a fair decision.
In some cases, there may be a sense of urgency if domestic violence, child abuse, or fraud is involved. If this is the case, family lawyers can help you seek spousal maintenance so you can flee the situation to protect yourself and/or your children. In these cases, the court will likely skip the pre-action procedures, which is gathering the financial information on both spouses, and render a decision to help the fleeing spouse.
The spouse receiving support can get regular monthly payments or he/she may receive it in one lump sum. However, if his/her financial status changes or he/she remarries, then the ex-spouse paying spousal maintenance can petition to have the support reduced or ended. Spousal maintenance payments have no bearing on child support, so even if the spousal maintenance payments end, the child support payments will continue.
If you are getting a divorce and cannot make rent payments, utilities, or put food on the table, then the court may award spousal maintenance to help you pay those bills. However, if you have other earning potential, you may only get maintenance until you take advantage of your opportunities and support yourself.