The notion of alimony in Australia is another example of the Americanisation (or ‘Americanization‘) of our culture.

While Americans have family law attorneys, we here in Australia have barristers and solicitors.

Go figure! One could be forgiven, if one watched enough of the aforementioned American television, that the answer to ‘Objection!’ was either ‘overruled’ or ‘sustained’ and that alimony followed divorce in the same way that night followed day…

But getting back to issues relevant to a family law lawyer, what do terms like alimony and spousal support mean in Australia? The short answer is that terms like ‘alimony’ and ‘spousal support’ essentially represent the concept whereby one person provides ongoing financial support for their former partner. In Australia, this concept is described in the legislation as ‘spousal maintenance‘.

So, can I get alimony in Australia? The short answer is yes, but it is not a foregone conclusion. Generally speaking, courts favour finalising matters between hostile parties (that is, giving them a clean break). This notion was explained by Margaret Harrison as follows:

‘The philosophy behind this is that, where possible, courts should make orders which will finalise inter-spousal financial relationships and avoid re-litigation. Although (particularly since the 1988 amendments) the Family Law Act has clearly demonstrated that the clean break is restricted to adults, this has been interpreted by some parents as justifying or even encouraging their refusal to allow access or to withdraw from their children after separation (Harrison 1988). The messages provided by no-fault divorce stress the fact that post-divorce circumstances should not be burdened by the past.’

The clean break principle is therefore a barrier to receiving spousal maintenance (there was even a ‘clean break subcommittee’ established ‘to inquire into and report on a range of issues including the role of spousal support’ – see ‘Spousal Support in Australia – A Study of Incidence and Attitudes’).

Once again it seems that American television is not the best indicator of reality in Australian family law…


Marc Testart
Principal Family Lawyer
Testart Family Lawyers
Experience. Excellence. Compassion.

Useful links:

– The Australian Institute of Family Studies:

– Family Matters; and

– Spousal support in Australia: A study of incidence and attitudes

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