Who does spousal maintenance apply to?

If you have been in a marriage, civil union or de facto relationship (see What Is a De Facto Relationship?) and separated, you may be entitled to receive, or be liable to pay, spousal maintenance.  Maintenance can be payable following a relationship of less than three years, although the circumstances in which the obligation to pay arises may be more limited. See Spousal Maintenance and Interim Spousal Maintenance for further information.

What if there are no children of the relationship?

It is not necessary for there to be children of a relationship to claim spousal maintenance as this is different to child support.  However, there may be some costs that are intertwined.

When is spousal maintenance payable?

The obligation to pay spousal maintenance arises when one partner is left in a position (usually following separation) where they cannot meet their “reasonable needs”.    Reasonable needs does not mean the bare minimum amount required to survive, rather it reflects what is required to continue the standard of living that the couple were accustomed to when they lived together.  The other partner must have the ability to pay the amount of maintenance needed.

How is the amount of spousal maintenance determined?

There is no set formula for determining the amount of maintenance payable or the length of time it should be payable for.  That will depend on your particular circumstances.  You will however need to prepare a budget.  This will be required to assess your need for maintenance but also if you intend to defend a maintenance claim.  

Take action early

If you are seeking maintenance, early advice and action is crucial following separation in order to ensure the best possible outcome for any claim.  A delay in claiming maintenance can be detrimental to a successful claim in some circumstances.

Seek expert advice

Whether you are making a claim or defending one, expert legal advice is vital as the area of family law is ever changing and advisors need to be up to date.

Who to contact

We understand that separation is a difficult time, and financial worries only add to the stress.  We aim to resolve claims as quickly as possible and the majority of maintenance claims we deal with settle without having to go to Court.  For further information about financial support following separation, contact our Wellington based family lawyers Debbie Dunbar, email debbie.dunbar@morrisonkent.com, phone (04) 495 9940 or Maretta Twentyman, email maretta.twentyman@morrisonkent.com, phone (04) 495 8918.

Both Debbie and Maretta recently spoke on this topic at a legal education seminar for Legal Wise – http://www.legalwiseseminars.co.nz/articles/posts/2016/current-issues-in-family-law/