International Women’s Day provides the opportunity to consider some common legal challenges women encounter. Including  “How to make sure you are paid spousal support,” In this post, New South Lawyers’ Family Lawyers, explain your entitlements to financial assistance from a former partner following separation and the legal remedies available for females facing non-payment.  

Who is entitled to Spousal Maintenance in Australia?

Under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)  a person with relative financial capacity has a responsibility to financially support their former spouse in circumstances where the supported spouse cannot reasonably meet their own living expenses.  Under the terms of the legislation, Spousal Maintenance is available to both men and women. However, evidence, such as the findings of a spousal support study conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, suggests that men are the vast majority of payers and women are the vast majority of payees. Ultimately, this makes the issue of particular relevance to females. 

In Australia, Spousal Maintenance arrangements are established by formal agreements or court orders, ensuring fair and equitable support for spouses. Where there is an agreement between the parties,  Binding Financial Agreements (BFA) or Consent Orders approved by the Family Court  can be used to formalise the terms of support payments. In cases without formal agreements, the Family Court may determine Spousal Maintenance obligations based on individual circumstances.

Legal remedies for enforcement 

Women facing non-payment of spousal support have various legal avenues to pursue enforcement.  Firstly, they can apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for a court order to enforce support payments, if attempts at negotiations or mediation are unsuccessful. The Court has wide discretion to issue orders such as garnishment of wages, seizure of assets, appointment of  a receiver or penalties for non-compliance.

How to make sure you are paid Spousal Maintenance - without going to court

Women can also seek legal assistance from family law practitioners or community legal centres to navigate the enforcement process through methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution. As well as offering traditional legal representation (including preparing court applications and negotiating with the opposing party) legal professionals can employ Alternative Dispute Resolution methods like mediation or arbitration to resolve disputes outside the courtroom. This essentially offers a collaborative and cost-effective approach to achieving fair outcomes.

If you believe you may be entitled to spousal maintenance that you are not currently receiving, please contact a member of our friendly Family Law team today.

New South Lawyers’ communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. To that end, people should not rely on this communication as legal advice. Accordingly, they should seek formal legal advice for matters of interest arising from this communication.

To find out more, chat with a member of New South Lawyers' Family Law Team today.