In this blog post, we answer the most frequently asked questions about New Zealand spousal maintenance: What is spousal maintenance? How does it work? What does it cover? As a relationship property lawyer, I have successfully guided numerous clients through the spousal maintenance process and have provided answers to some common questions within this article. Read below to learn the basics.
What is spousal maintenance?
To start with, it helps to understand spousal maintenance is. Spousal maintenance is essentially where one spouse is liable to financially support the other following separation. An entitlement to spousal maintenance exists if one spouse is unable to meet reasonable costs in certain circumstances. Spousal maintenance usually involves a periodical payment (e.g. monthly or fortnightly) being made for a fixed period of time.
When is spousal maintenance payable?
The most common situation in which New Zealand spousal maintenance is payable is where one spouse stops working or earns a lower income due to providing care for children and maintaining the household. An obligation to pay spousal maintenance may also arise where a spouse’s income is lower due to them undertaking a training or education period.
How much is payable?
There is no fixed amount payable in spousal maintenance as it varies from couple to couple. The claimant spouse’s expenses determine the payable amount during the relationship.
For example, did they go to the hairdresser each month? Did they belong to a gym? Were they a member of a country club? Did they travel overseas regularly?
Typically, you will be asked to complete a budget detailing your past and ongoing expenses.
Ascertaining a couple’s standard of living (and therefore expenses) during the relationship allows the reasonable amount payable in spousal maintenance to be assessed.
How long is it payable for?
Spousal maintenance is payable for the period required for the claimant’s spouse to get into a position to meet their own reasonable costs. A claimant’s spouse is expected to assume responsibility for their own costs within a reasonable time.
The amount of time maintenance is payable also varies from couple to couple as it depends on various factors.
These include the position the claimant’s spouse is in, how long they have been out of the workforce, how long it will take them to get into a position to meet their own costs and the responsibility they have for the care of any children.
There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to what is spousal maintenance. It depends on each couple’s specific circumstances as to whether spousal maintenance is payable, how much is payable and how long for. That is why it is important to obtain clear legal advice early on where you stand. If you want advice about New Zealand spousal maintenance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.