Child Support & Spousal Maintenance

Expertise and advice for financial support after a relationship ends

When a relationship ends, it is often necessary to divide financial resources. Child support payments and spousal maintenance payments can be organised as part of a property settlement to ensure your financial future.

If you are currently going through a divorce or the finalisation of a de facto relationship, you may be eligible for or required to pay spousal maintenance or child support payments.

It is essential to seek legal advice about your situation and understand how the Family Law Act defines financial assistance after a relationship ends. Child support is generally payable if children are involved, and this can be organised through a binding child support Agreement  or the Australian government's Child Support Scheme (Services Australia)

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Our team's extensive expertise will empower you with the knowledge to make informed decisions for your future, negotiating child support & spousal maintenance arrangements that prioritise your family's needs.

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How does spousal maintenance work in Australia?

Spousal support can apply if one party cannot support themselves financially after divorce or separation, and the other party can do so. Spousal maintenance can be paid as regular ongoing payments or as a lump sum during property settlement negotiations. This may be done on a permanent basis or as an interim measure to ensure the spouse with a lower earning capacity can continue a suitable standard of living.

Every matter will be considered on its merits, and the court considers various factors when assessing amounts payable. Our team can help you understand your options for ongoing spousal maintenance for yourself.

What sort of financial support or maintenance is usually paid after a relationship with children breaks down?

In Australia, Child Support is a legal requirement for many separated couples to ensure that children are provided for after their parent's relationship ends. Payment amounts can vary significantly and will reflect a family's circumstances.

There are two ways to organise Child Support payments in Australia. The first is a binding Child Support Agreement, which both parents agree upon. This will stipulate the amounts to be paid and if things like school fees or other needs will be covered.

What are spousal maintenance payments, and who is eligible to receive spousal maintenance?

In Australia, spousal maintenance payments are relatively uncommon compared to countries like the US, where alimony is more frequently covered when a marriage or de facto relationship ends. Usually, they are awarded by the court when one party cannot support themselves due to an inability to earn an income, health issues, age or when they have been in a long-term home duties role.

Spousal maintenance can often be negotiated without commencing legal proceedings and may be paid on a one-off or ongoing basis. It is designed to ensure that the spouse without the means to support themself can maintain a reasonable standard of living when the other spouse is in a position to provide support. Spousal maintenance can apply for married and de facto relationships on an urgent, interim, or final basis.

What are urgent, interim and final spousal maintenance orders?

The Family Court may issue an 'urgent' spousal maintenance order if one party needs immediate assistance to help with living costs. An 'interim' order may be granted for a period before a 'final' hearing - if the application is deemed viable.

A final order for spousal maintenance is designed to be permanent or until a specific circumstance occurs, such as:

  • The recipient gains the necessary skills or workplace training to self-support
  • The recipient no longer has children under the age of 18
  • The payer's earning capacity is dramatically reduced, and spousal maintenance cannot be paid
  • The recipient enters into a new de facto relationship or marriage
  • A property settlement or lump sum payment is finalised, and spousal support is no longer needed

It is imperative to get legal advice that considers your circumstances before applying for maintenance of this type. Our team is here to help and will ensure you have the best advice during your separation or divorce.

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What is the difference between the Child Support Scheme and a private arrangement for Child Support?

Child support can be organised between you and your former spouse or former de facto partner as a private agreement formalised by a Binding Child Support Agreement. This legal document will define any amounts to be paid, whether regularly or periodically. Many couples choose to reach an agreement this way, based on what is fair and reasonable and the financial resources available to both parties.

If circumstances change, these agreements can be terminated (both party’s consent would be required) and a new agreement created. For instance, if either party's income amounts significantly change, a new marriage or relationship occurs, or when one parent takes on more or less care of children covered by the agreement.

How does the Services Australia Child Support Scheme work?

Services Australia uses a complex mathematical formula to create an assessment for a Child support liability/payment. This is based on the taxable income of both parties and the amount of nights each parent spends with the child/children. 

If you choose to go make an Application for Child Support through Services Australia, they can collect the payments on your behalf (“agency collect“) or you can agree for your former spouse to pay maintenance to you directly, which is known as 'private collection'.

If a payment or payments are not made then Services Australia will attempt to collect the outstanding amounts on your behalf, which may include taking money from the payer’s income, intercepting their tax return and other debt collection methods. If you have a private collection arrangement and a debt arises, you may need to change your arrangement into an “agency collect” arrangement. 

For more information on government child support arrangements, please visit Services Australia.

Do time limits apply?

If you are applying for spousal maintenance or child support, the Family Law Act does set time limits for applications to be made. For spousal maintenance cases, this is within 12 months of a divorce order being finalised or within two years of a de facto relationship ending. For child support this must be done before a child turns 18 years.

These time limits are essential to observe but can sometimes be extended (not with child support matters) if family or domestic violence is a factor or other significant issues have prevented one or both parties from meeting the deadlines.

Let our team assist you in arranging child support or spousal maintenance payments with your former partner

To book an appointment with one of our experienced team members, please use our contact form below or contact (03) 9435 9044. We will ensure you have the information and support required to reach a fair and equitable arrangement.

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