Last updated 25 May 2022
Spousal maintenance is an amount of money that one party to a marriage or de facto relationship may be required to pay to the other party after separation. A person who receives spousal maintenance is generally called the payee. The person who pays spousal maintenance is the payer.
Child maintenance, or child support, is an amount of money payable by one parent to another parent for the support of their children. The parent who receives child maintenance is called the payee. The parent who pays child maintenance is usually called the liable parent or payer.
One of the main objectives of the law of spousal maintenance and child support is to ensure that a former spouse or parent makes a fair contribution to the reasonable needs of the other spouse and children.
Where a court, tribunal or Services Australia – Child Support are required to assess a person’s or child’s entitlement to maintenance, they must disregard any entitlement the person and child might have to an income-tested pension, allowance or benefit when assessing their needs.
A payer’s entitlement to such a payment is not disregarded when assessing the payer’s ability to pay. Although many payers regard this as unfair, the law also requires that decisions should be fair to the community (taxpayers) by minimising reliance on publicly funded pensions, allowances and benefits and enforcing parents or former spouses to pay maintenance or child support where possible.