How long for spouse maintenance?
The length of time that spouse maintenance payments are provided for usually depends upon the time required for the lower income earner to re-train and re-establish themselves into paid employment.
Consequently, the length of time is usually not very long. In a recent case, the trial judge limited the wife’s entitlement to spouse maintenance from the husband for 4 years.
The wife appealed, saying there should be no time limit. The Appeal Court agreed with her.
- They had been in a relationship for 23 years during which the husband “suffered from alcoholism”.
- 1 year after separation, the husband claimed and began receiving payments for severe depression under a disability insurance policy.
- The husband received $135,000 as a lump sum and thereafter $3,756 a week which could “continue up to the age of 70, but the insurer could cease the payments if it determined that the husband was only partially disabled or was able to resume work”.
- The wife obtained a court order that the husband pay her spouse maintenance of $534 a week for 4 years. Those payments being conditional upon the husband continuing to receive disability payments.
- The Full Court removed the 4 year time limit stating that “It was appropriate for the trial judge to make the order conditional upon the husband receiving his payments, however there was no basis on the evidence to terminate the maintenance in any event after 4 years”.
- There was no evidence to suggest that the wife’s needs would be any different in 4 years’ time or that the insurance payments were likely to cease in 4 years’ time.
- The joint contribution to the events that entitled the husband to the insurance payment did not suggest that it was unjust for the wife to continue to receive part of that income whilst it was available.