The duration of spousal support payments is not considered in a vacuum. In Raine & Creed  FamCAFC 133, the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia determined the question of the duration of an order for spousal support in view of the parties future economic prospects.
The husband began receiving payments under a disability insurance policy roughly one year after the parties had separated. These payments were comprised of a lump sum of $135,495 and weekly payments of $3,756. The weekly payments would continue until the husband reached the age of 70. This was subject to the insurance company’s determination that either the husband was partially disabled or capable of obtaining work.
The wife sought maintenance against the husband at trial. She was awarded periodic spousal support payments of $534 dollars each week for a period of 4 years, conditional on the husband continuing to receive insurance payments. The wife appealed the decision on the basis that the 4 year period was arbitrary.
The Full Court allowed the wife’s appeal, removed the 4 year limit and ordered that the payments continue until the husband’s insurance payments were terminated. There was no basis for terminating the maintenance payments to the wife after 4 years. The evidence did not suggest that the wife’s needs would be different in 4 years’ time. Nor was there evidence to suggest that the husband’s insurance payments would cease after 4 years. The only limit on the husband’s ability to pay maintenance was the continuation of the husband’s disability payments, given that he did not have an alternative source. Moreover, both the husband and wife contributed to the events that entitled the husband to receive insurance payments.
This case highlights the point that an arbitrarily determined time frame is no substitute for considering the parties economic prospects in determining the duration of a maintenance order.