Cannon v Cox [2020] NZFC 5114

Published 14 December 2020

Application for interim spousal maintenance — reasonable needs — impact of COVID-19 — Family Proceedings Act 1980, ss 64, 64A & 82 — Ropiha v Ropiha [1979] 2 NZFLR 245 — Tsoi v Hua HC Auckland CIV-2005-404-5966, 20 March 2006. This was an application for interim spousal maintenance of $2514.52 per month pending receipt of the applicant's relationship property entitlement, pursuant to s 82 of the Family Proceedings Act (FPA). The respondent opposed the application. Section 64 of the FPA is the relevant section for determining final spousal maintenance after dissolution and may be used to assist with making a determination as to interim maintenance. Each party is liable to maintain the other party's reasonable needs where that party cannot practicably meet the whole or any party of those needs because of one or more of the circumstances specified in subs (2) of that section. The circumstances include: ability to be or become self-supporting; childcare responsibilities; standard of living while living together; physical or mental disability; inability to obtain reasonable work that provides adequate support; and further education or training rendering support unreasonable. Section 64A is also relevant as it stipulates that each partner must assume responsibility within a reasonable time for meeting their own needs. The applicant had not been in paid employment and had been in receipt of a WINZ benefit since 2018, but had not applied for any jobs since 2017. She had her own business but it had not been operational. The respondent had primary care of the parties' two children and received $100 from the applicant in child support payments. The respondent was in a de facto relationship and supporting his new partner as she had recently been made redundant, and his income had also been impacted by COVID-19. He was servicing the mortgage on the family home and claimed he had to borrow money to pay the legal costs of the parties' protracted and multifarious court proceedings. The Judge found that there was no adequate explanation for why the applicant had not sought employment since vacating the family home; there was no satisfactory evidence that the division of relationship property was preventing her from supporting herself; and that the eight years since the parties' de facto relationship ended was a reasonable time in all the circumstances for the applicant to have assumed responsibility for her own needs. The Judge declined to make an order that the respondent pay interim spousal maintenance. The application for final spousal maintenance was to be set down for hearing, following further evidence from the parties. Judgment Date: 21 July 2020. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *