Heather approached us as a result of her husband, Ian, leaving. They had been together for 10 years.
Ian, 35, was a professional with an income of $140,000. Heather was 30 years old and stayed at home to look after their three young children aged 2, 4 and 5.
They owned their own home but had a mortgage. Ian had some superannuation, about $95,000, while Heather had none. When they commenced their relationship, neither had any assets of significance.
Heather’s most pressing issue was that she no longer had Ian’s income to support her and the children. She had applied for a single parent’s benefit from Centrelink and received about $800 per fortnight. We advised her to apply for a Child Support Assessment so that Ian would be contributing to the support of their children. Ian began paying child support of $371 per week which helped ease Heather’s financial burden.
We also talked to Heather about spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is the legal obligation of one party to a marriage to financially support the other party. There are two criteria which must be satisfied before a court will grant spousal maintenance.
Firstly, there must be a need.
In Heather’s case she had the required need. She was unable to work because she had to care for the children.
Secondly, there had to be a capacity to pay on the part of the other party.
In Ian’s case, he has a wage of $140,000. After taking into account reasonable living expenses, child support payments and the servicing of the mortgage on the home, Ian had spare income of $400 per week.
Heather’s reasonable living expenses amounted to $480 per week, including food, power and car expenses etc. Even though Heather received a single parenting benefit of $400 per week, this is ignored for the purposes of calculating how much spousal maintenance Ian had to pay. Heather’s benefit was reduced in accordance with how much Ian paid in spousal maintenance.
It was determined that Ian had to pay spousal maintenance for Heather, amounting to $400 per week for a period of two years. Heather will be able to extend that period if a court decides it is appropriate to do so. The payment of spousal maintenance from Ian provided Heather with financial security while she cared for hers and Ian’s children until they were old enough to attend school.
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