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If Spousal Maintenance is payable, then it can either be paid on a periodic basis or in a lump sum amount.
Periodic payments of Spousal Maintenance may be paid in regular instalment amounts, for example, weekly or monthly.
If periodic payments of Spousal Maintenance are ordered, then they are usually intended to be paid from the income of the respondent spouse.
There have been cases however when a respondent spouse deliberately puts themselves in a financial position so that they do not have income from which Spousal Maintenance can be paid and so Courts in those cases have ordered the lump sum payment of Spousal Maintenance from assets the respondent owns.
As part of the property settlement, a certain percentage of the assets received by one party may be stated to be lump sum apportionment of spousal maintenance.
A court order about payment of Spousal Maintenance will usually say how, when and where the Spousal Maintenance payments are to be made.
Once a Court has made an Order for the periodic payment of Spousal Maintenance, either party can apply to vary (change) or discharge that Order.
If the person receiving spousal maintenance starts work or finds themselves in a better position financially, the person paying spousal maintenance can apply to the court to either have the order discharged entirely or for the amount of the payments to be decreased.
Similarly, if the financial position of the person receiving spousal maintenance payments gets worse, they can apply to the Court for the amount of spousal maintenance to be increased.
Once a Court has made an Order for the periodic payment of Spousal Maintenance that court order is enforceable.
If your spouse stops making the payments the court has ordered, then you will need to go back to Court to seek that the Order be enforced.
The Court might look at whether they can order your former spouse's employer to deduct amounts from their income and pay it directly to you instead.
The Court might also consider seizing any assets your former spouse owns.
If you have to go back to Court to get the Court to enforce payment of the Spousal Maintenance Order then the Court might also look at awarding you interest on the amount owing and/or payment of some of your legal costs.
There is not a black and white answer as to when Spousal Maintenance payments will usually be ordered to end as each case is decided based on its own particular facts.
The matters the court considers when deciding Spousal Maintenance applications will also govern how long the court will consider they might need to make an order apply for.
How long Spousal Maintenance might be payable might involve considering:
More and more often, courts have started limiting the length of time they expect Spousal Maintenance to be payable for.
In many cases courts will only order Spousal Maintenance to be paid for a certain period of time (eg. 6 months, a year, 3 years, 5 years etc) by which time they consider the person receiving Spousal Maintenance should have taken steps to start supporting themselves.
Spousal Maintenance will usually end when either of the parties die or if the person receiving the spousal maintenance remarries, unless a Court orders otherwise.
You can read about when Spousal Maintenance might be payable by one spouse to their former spouse in our fact sheet Can I get paid Spousal Maintenance.
There is a list of things the law says the court must look at when considering whether a person should be ordered to pay Spousal Maintenance to their former partner. You can read that list in our fact sheet List of matters considered for when Spousal Maintenance is payable.
You need to be eligible to apply for Spousal Maintenance. You can read more about eligibility to seek Spousal Maintenance in our fact sheet: Who can apply for Spousal Maintenance.
Our fact sheet explaining how payment of Spousal Maintenance is calculated will also give you valuable information you need.
A strict maximum time limit does apply as to when you can make your application for Spousal Maintenance.
If an order for payment of Spousal Maintenance has not previously been made, then there are time limits that apply as to how quickly after your separation or divorce you will need to make an application for Spousal Maintenance. You can read more about this in our fact sheet, What is the time limit to apply for Spousal Maintenance.
Michelle Beatty, Senior Lawyer
Other Questions answered in the Spousal Maintenance Section
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