How Long Does an Order of Spousal Maintenance Last?

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Spousal maintenance documentOne of the most common questions regarding spousal maintenance is “how long does it last?” Unfortunately, there’s no one answer to this question since the law doesn’t place limits on the span of time an order of spousal maintenance should last. On the other hand, courts have extensive powers when determining spousal maintenance orders but usually specify a fixed period during which a spousal maintenance order should be in effect. Townsville family law practitioners can help you with the intricacies.

According to Ss. 90SJ and 82 of the Family Law Act, however, spousal maintenance could cease to take effect in the event of the following:

  • If the individual paying spousal maintenance dies;
  • If the individual receiving spousal maintenance dies (subject to certain exceptions); or
  • If the individual receiving maintenance remarries (except in certain situations).

If you’re the one receiving maintenance and you marry another individual, you need to inform your former spouse. However, entering a de facto relationship doesn’t automatically mean that you stop receiving payments. But the court has the discretion to take into consideration how your financial circumstances would change now that you’re living with a new partner, in order to determine whether you should continue receiving spousal maintenance or if the amount of the maintenance warrants reducing.

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In addition, courts could elect to vary, suspend or discharge spousal maintenance if:

  • Both parties financial circumstances and/or cost of living have changed in a way that the court deems it justifiable to do so;
  • The spousal maintenance was ordered by consent and the maintenance amount isn’t sufficient or proper; or
  • The court received false evidence or was withheld material facts when it made the spousal maintenance order.

If you have yet to be married, consider drafting a formal agreement that would limit you and your soon-to-be spouse's right to receive or pay spousal maintenance form each other in case of divorce or separation. Do note though that for this agreement to take effect, it should formalised. If you’re currently receiving or paying spousal maintenance and are wondering when the order would last or if you have a change in financial circumstances and would like the current spousal maintenance order reevaluated, consult a family law attorney for help.