Variations and Urgent Payments
Varying Spousal and Non Child-Support Agency Maintenance
An order for maintenance for a spouse or a child may be varied by the Court at a later date if the Court is satisfied that such an action is justified because:
- the circumstances of either party have changed;
- the cost of living has changed to a sufficient extent to justify variation (provided that at least 12 months have passed since the date of the order or the last variation);
- material facts were withheld from the Court on a previous occasion, or material evidence previously given was false; or
- the last order was made by consent and the amount is not proper or adequate (s83).
If the Court considers the order should be varied, it may increase or decrease the payments or suspend or discharge the order. A person who cannot make regular maintenance payments may apply for a variation of a court order if their circumstances have changed since the order was made. In the case of the variation of a child maintenance order, all except the first point above apply. In these matters the Court is only required to consider a change in the circumstances of the person liable to make payments and not necessarily those of the other parent.
Urgent Payments of Spousal Maintenance
In some cases a spouse or child of the marriage may be in such immediate need of financial assistance that they cannot wait until the Court decides the question of maintenance or the Child Support Agency starts collecting child support in the normal way. Upon an urgent Interim Application, the Court may then order payment of such sum(s) of money as it considers reasonable for urgent maintenance until the case is finally decided or until the child support agency payments are made.
A maintenance order for a spouse ceases upon the death of that spouse or upon that spouse’s remarriage, unless the Court makes a continuation order (s82(1), Family Law Act). Such an order would be made in those (rare) cases where, for instance, the wife was formerly married to a wealthy man and then remarries a man in poor health or poor financial circumstances. Maintenance payments automatically cease on the death of the payer unless there is a specific continuation order.