Under the law, a person in a marriage or a de facto relationship has a responsibility to financially support and maintain his or her spouse if the spouse is unable to reasonably support and maintain himself and herself from his or her income and assets to the extent that the first mentioned spouse is reasonably able to support his or her spouse.
Spousal maintenance is a sum of money, which is paid by one spouse to another and applies to both parties who have been married and since 1 December 2002, it also now applies to be de-facto couples. Under the Family Law Act 1975 and the Family Court Act 1997, either party may receive, or be ordered by the Court to pay, spousal maintenance.
The most common situations where spousal maintenance will be payable is where one spouse is quite clearly unable to earn any income, or is earning a limited income, for example:-
- Where a spouse is physically or mentally handicapped, or in ill health; or
- Where a spouse has ceased work to care for young children and either does not have the necessary skills to re-enter the workforce, or it is unreasonable for them to seek employment.
Mediation can also help you to:
- decide which areas are in dispute;
- explore possible safe solutions, taking one problem at a time;
- clarify your agreement/outcome;
- identify potential risks to children and families.
Mediation takes place in an environment of co-operation. In mediation you will be encouraged to make your own decisions and if necessary you will be offered professional guidance to do this. The benefits of mediation will differ for each individual; however, the key advantages are that it provides people with:
- solutions they have been part of creating;
- answers through facilitated discussion;
- an opportunity to listen to each other without blame and competition;
- sessions at mutually convenient times;
- a service which is private and confidential;
- an opportunity to present their own views in their own words.
- The parties will initially meet with a mediator separately. At this appointment the mediator will explain the process and assess how best to proceed with the mediation.
- Following the individual sessions, the parties will then meet with a mediator collectively, and if the parties have lawyers, their lawyers will often also attend. During the mediation session the mediator will assist the parties to explore the issues in dispute; develop options and negotiate possible outcomes; work out priorities; find common ground.
- At the finalisation of a mediation, the mediator will usually summarise the agreement verbally or in writing and discuss appropriate next steps.
Part of that discussion may be about whether the agreement be kept between the parties or formalised by a lawyer for transference to court forms.
Generally what is said during a mediation session may not be used in evidence in family law hearings or proceedings.
Exceptions include a legal requirement to report a suspicion or risk of child abuse to the relevant authorities, and where there is violence or a threat of violence or an admission or disclosure of child abuse in certain circumstances.
We have a Nationally Accredited Mediator at Lynn & Brown who is available to provide low cost mediations in property disputes.