Dedicating one’s personal talents and strengths toward building a family is a beautiful, and incredibly worthwhile experience. However, the pursuit of this joint endeavor can sometimes come at the expense of one spouse’s career or employment advancement.

While married, these sacrifices aren’t usually a big deal. In the post-divorce world, though, they can suddenly become a much bigger issue—especially for those who spent much of their adult years reliant on the income of a spouse.

In order to ensure divorce doesn’t have disproportionate financial consequences for one spouse over the other, New York courts will often award one partner spousal maintenance, in order to help them get back on their feet, post-divorce.

Spousal Maintenance: Overview

Spousal maintenance (sometimes called “alimony,” or “spousal support”) is not the same thing as child support. Instead, these are separate payments that are specifically designed to help stay-at-home spouses become financially independent after divorce.

Gender Doesn’t Matter

New York does not limit spousal maintenance by gender, or sexual orientation in any way. Instead, entitlement to an award of maintenance is based mainly upon income – with a requirement that the “more monied spouse” is required to pay maintenance to the “lesser monied spouse” so long as there is a big enough difference in their incomes to require an award.

Calculating Spousal Maintenance

The statute now contains a formula which considers both parent’s incomes. The result of this formula is considered the “presumptively correct spousal maintenance award.” This award can be increased or decreased but only if the circumstances require adjustment.

Changes to the presumptively correct amount are hard to achieve but can occur if a court believes that the presumptive award is “unjust or inappropriate” based upon review / consideration of the following factors:

      • the age and health of the parties;
      • (b) the present or future earning capacity of the parties, including a history of limited participation in the workforce;
      • (c) the need of one party to incur education or training expenses;
      • (d) the termination of a child support award during the pendency of the temporary maintenance award when the calculation of temporary maintenance was based upon child support being awarded and which resulted in a maintenance award lower than it would have been had child support not been awarded;
      • (e) the wasteful dissipation of marital property, including transfers or encumbrances made in contemplation of a matrimonial action without fair consideration;
      • (f) the existence and duration of a pre-marital joint household or a pre-divorce separate household;
      • (g) acts by one party against another that have inhibited or continue to inhibit a party’s earning capacity or ability to obtain meaningful employment. Such acts include but are not limited to acts of domestic violence as provided in section four hundred fifty-nine-a of the social services law;
      • (h) the availability and cost of medical insurance for the parties;
      • (i) the care of children or stepchildren, disabled adult children or stepchildren, elderly parents or in-laws provided during the marriage that inhibits a party’s earning capacity;
      • (j) the tax consequences to each party;
      • (k) the standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
      • (l) the reduced or lost earning capacity of the payee as a result of having forgone or delayed education, training, employment or career opportunities during the marriage; and
      • (m) any other factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.

    A change to the presumptively correct support obligation is very tough to obtain, though, it is possible.

How Long Does Spousal Support Last

The maintenance law contains “durational guidelines” that judges use to determine how long a maintenance award should be paid. The guidelines base the length of the award upon the length of the marriage, as shown below:

Length of the marriage Percent of the length of the marriage for which maintenance will be payable

    •  Up to and including 15 years: 15% – 30%
    • More than 15 up to and including 20 years: 30% – 40%
    • More than 20 years:  35% – 50%

Temporary Spousal Maintenance

Divorce isn’t usually quick, and—unfortunately—bills don’t suddenly stop just because you’re going through a rough patch.

In the event that spouses are living in separate homes while they go through a divorce, a judge can order temporary payment of maintenance. This will ensure that the lesser-monied spouse is properly supported. If the spouses live together, a temporary spousal support award may be issued but often the result of a request for interim maintenance (when couples live together) is the agreement as to which spouse will pay what bill and how much discretionary income will be provided to the non-monied spouse.

Lauren L. Hunt: New York Divorce Attorney

Divorce is an uncertain time for many reasons, and financial / income concerns can be one of them. New York State law has clear formulas and obligations for spousal support; all of which is meant to ease those financial fears.

If you have more questions about spousal maintenance, and how these laws could affect your divorce, I want to hear from you. Schedule a consultation by calling the offices of Lauren L. Hunt at (518) 282-7300, or, make an appointment online, and together we can ensure that you receive the financial support you are entitled to.

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