Many people feel trapped in a relationship as they don‘t have the funds to leave and set themselves up elsewhere. Often this occurs as one party has been the financial controller during the relationship and the other party finds themselves cut off from independent funds.
So what can be done for a person in this situation?
Spouses and de facto spouses have the right to claim maintenance from the other spouse under the Family Law Act. The first step is to establish whether the “threshold test” is met. This requires that the payer spouse is reasonably able to pay maintenance and that the applicant spouse is otherwise unable to support themselves adequately. Such an inability to support themselves can arise from any relevant factor which includes an inability to gain employment as a result of age, mental or physical disability or having the care of a child of the marriage.
There are three types of applications which can be made to the court for maintenance:
1. Urgent Maintenance
This option is a stop-gap option only and will be relatively short in nature as it is made by the court without full investigation of the financial circumstances of the relationship.
2. Interim Maintenance
If it is not necessary to apply urgently, an interim order should be considered. Such an order can provide that maintenance is paid until finalisation of a property settlement matter.
3. Final Order Maintenance
As the name suggests this can be maintenance for a lifetime or a considerable defined period of time. It is awarded by agreement or following a full property settlement hearing. There is sometimes the ability to have such a maintenance figure capitalised and paid as a lump sum.