//Spousal Maintenance
Spousal Maintenance2019-07-27T05:36:48-05:00

New York City Spousal Maintenance Attorneys

Among the many issues, you need to consider when getting a divorce is whether to request spousal maintenance, also known as “alimony.” Spousal maintenance exists to take some of the unfairness out of divorce, but no court will award it unless you request it. Whether you qualify for maintenance is a complicated question. You should meet with an experienced New York City spousal maintenance attorney for a free consultation.

What is Spousal Maintenance?

Divorce can be financially devastating when spouses make an unequal amount of money or when one spouse has more personal assets than the other. The less well-off spouse can see his or her standard of living plummet as soon as the divorce papers are signed.

To help mitigate this unfairness, New York law allows a husband or wife to request spousal maintenance when divorcing. Once called “alimony,” spousal maintenance is a sum of money usually paid in monthly installments.

In the old days, only wives were eligible for maintenance and payments usually lasted indefinitely. This set of circumstances made sense in an age when women did not have access to education or work experience. Often, these women stayed home to raise the children and were thus entirely dependent on their husband’s income.

However, society has changed dramatically. Women now make up more than half of college students and continue to occupy high perches in every profession. It is not unusual for men to stay home to raise children while their wives climb the career ladder. For these reasons and others, either a man or woman can request spousal maintenance. Also, the state expects people to become self-sufficient, so lifetime awards of spousal maintenance are no longer common.

How is Spousal Maintenance Determined in NYC?

Divorcing couples are free to determine spousal maintenance themselves. They can determine which spouse will pay maintenance, the duration, and the amount paid. Couples can then fold their agreement into their divorce agreement and both sign it. A judge will almost always approve an agreement that the couples reach themselves voluntarily.

However, couples often disagree on spousal maintenance. In this situation, the spouse requesting maintenance will need to include a request in their divorce petition. The judge will then hear argument on whether to award spousal maintenance.

New York City Spousal Maintenance Attorneys

What Affects the Duration and Amount of Spousal Maintenance Payments?

New York has adopted formulas that determine the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. The formulas are complicated and can only be summarized here. You should certainly meet with a New York City spousal maintenance attorney for details.

To determine the duration of spousal maintenance, the judge will look at the length of the marriage:

  • If a marriage lasted 15 years or less, then maintenance last between 15-30% of the duration of the marriage. If a couple was married for 10 years, for example, then maintenance could last between 1.5 and 3 years.
  • If the marriage was between 15 and 20 years, then maintenance will last for an amount of time equal to 30-40% the duration of the marriage. For example, if a couple was married for 20 years, then maintenance should last between 6 and 8 years.
  • If a marriage lasted for more than 20 years, then maintenance lasts for an amount of time equal to 35-50% of the duration of the marriage. For example, if a couple was married for 30 years, maintenance can last between 10.5 and 15 years.

The formula to determine the amount of maintenance is very complicated. It matters whether the person paying spousal maintenance is also paying child support. For this reason, child support should be decided at the same time as the couple decides maintenance. Here are the two formulas:

Lower Formula:

  • (1) Multiply the payor’s income by 20%. Income is capped at around $175,000, subject to annual adjustments for inflation.
  • (2) Multiply the payee’s income by 25%
  • Subtract Line 2 from line 1. This is the First Result.
  • Subtract the payee’s income from 40% of combined income. This is the Second Result.
  • Use the lower of the First or Second Result.

For example, imagine the payer makes $100,000 and the payee makes $40,000. Result 1 is $10,000. Result 2 is $16,000. So the lower is $10,000.

Higher formula:

  • (1) Multiply the payor’s income by 30%. Income is capped, as in the lower formula (discussed above).
  • (2) Multiply the payee’s income by 20%
  • Subtract line 2 from line 1. This is the First Result.
  • Subtract the payee’s income from 40% of combined income. This is the Second Result.
  • Use the lower of the two results.

The lower formula is used when the person paying spousal maintenance is also paying child support.

Exceptions for Spousal Maintenance

The Court can depart from the formula based on several factors outlined in the Domestic Relations Law § 236:

  • The health and age of each party
  • Present and future earnings capacity
  • Whether one party needs additional education or training
  • Whether one party wasted marital property
  • Whether either party inhibited the other’s ability to earn money or gain employment, such as by committing domestic violence
  • Tax consequences
  • Availability and cost of medical insurance
  • Whether caring for children or a disabled adult will inhibit a party’s earning capacity

Often, it is not clear whether a judge will depart from the formula. Remember, the formulas only provide guidelines, and judges are free to deviate from them if you make a compelling argument that it is fair and just to do so. For this reason, your choice of attorney can make a big difference in the ultimate spousal maintenance award.

Contact our Spousal Maintenance Attorneys Now

Spousal maintenance can help our clients get back on their feet in the immediate aftermath of a divorce and can provide ongoing income for years to come. For this reason, you should do everything you can to protect your rights, starting by meeting with an attorney at the Levoritz Law Firm. We can protect your rights to spousal maintenance, as well as other rights during divorce. We are phone call away: 718-942-4004. Alternately, you can fill out our online contact form.

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