We all like to be kept in the manner to which we are accustomed.

Under the Family Law Act 1975, when a married couple breaks up, each is expected to maintain his or her former spouse to the extent they are reasonably able, if their former spouse is unable to support themselves adequately. It’s called spousal maintenance.

Spousal maintenance cases can sometimes make interesting reading. One recent such case in the Family Court concerned a couple who first met when the would-be husband answered an advertisement of his wife-to-be, offering her services as an escort. He was about 64 at the time, and she was just 31, living in a de facto relationship with the father of her child. Her charge-out rate was a stiff $275 per hour, or $1500 for an overnight stay, but the arrangement was convenient to both and, at first, strictly commercial in nature.

However, love eventually bloomed (or so it seemed), such that he was soon feting her with gifts, buying her clothes and shoes, paying for her Botox treatments, breast enlargements and lip injections, paying her rent, and clothing and schooling her daughter, even though she continued to live with her de facto partner. The Family Court judge who ultimately heard the case, described their relationship as “unusual, if not unique,” given the wife’s evidence in court that her husband “repulsed me in every way.” The husband, for his part, testified he formed a “deep relationship of love and affection,” but his wife assured the judge she stomached him only because “I needed the money to support my family.”

He bought her a $1.12 million house, and they married, but never lived together. When the lovebirds finally separated a couple of years later, she kept the house and filed for a lump sum of around $350,000 in spousal maintenance, with a further stipend of $8000 a month. She argued she needed every cent of it because she couldn’t find gainful employment. His Honour, it seems, was quite unconvinced. “But what employment?” he asked rhetorically. “There was a curious silence by the respondent about what she could do. There was nothing said about endeavours to obtain positions that might have been entirely within her skills and capacity.’

The judge ultimately decided there was no good reason she could not just go get a job. “(She) lives in inner Melbourne in a house the value of which exceeds $1 million,” he said. “There is no evidence of any necessity to live in that area.” His Honour could see no reason why she couldn’t just sell the house her husband had bought her, and join the suburban workforce.

Love, in its many guises, comes at a cost.

Gisele Reid, Family Lawyer and Migration Agent MARN1569900

Gisele Reid - Family Lawyer