Criteria For Awarding Spousal Support in New York (2024)

Spousal support in New York can be a complicated topic and one that is very contentious amongst divorcing couples. More commonly referred to as spousal maintenance, this process is designed to help a spouse who may have a lower income regain a financial foundation that then allows them to provide for their own needs. While it may seem as simple as determining which spouse makes more money than the other, there are several considerations taken into account when determining how much spousal support may be provided and for what length of time.

The following should help provide a clearer picture of spousal support so that if you find yourself in a position where you may be seeking payments or you may be at risk of paying, you feel more empowered and informed regarding your legal options.

Different Types of Spousal Maintenance

New York has two types of spousal maintenance. They are:

  • Temporary. This is awarded if one spouse has a need during the divorce process and ends when the final divorce is granted by a judge.
  • Post-divorce. This is the more common type of maintenance that people are familiar with. It consists of payments made after the divorce is finalized.

Couples seeking a divorce in New York could face a contested or uncontested process. In a contested process, spousal support would need to be awarded by the court. In an uncontested process, the couple may decide between themselves if support is necessary, how much, and for how long.

Determining Spousal Maintenance Award

When filing for divorce, both spouses have the opportunity to request spousal maintenance from the other. If the court is going to award an amount to one spouse, they will consider the following:

  • What was the standard of living during the marriage?
  • What property or income is available to both spouses?

With these considerations, the court must then make several decisions. These include:

  • Is spousal maintenance necessary?
  • How much is necessary?
  • What type of maintenance is needed?
  • How long should the payments last?

They will then use a formula to calculate the amount of payments. This formula takes into account the duration of the marriage, the income, and other factors such as child support, access to assets, earning potential, and division of property.

Structure of Spousal Maintenance

If spousal maintenance is ordered, the courts will also set a structure for how the payments are to be made and how frequently. In New York, these payments are commonly made in monthly payments; however, they may structure the payments in a different way if it is necessary based on the couple’s circumstances.

While payments are usually paid by one spouse to the other, there may be circumstances in which a court will order the payment to be deducted from a paycheck through an employer. A judge may also allow for or order a lump sum payment to be made instead of periodic installments. However, this is less frequently used because of the high demand for this type of payment.

The length of payments is determined by the length of the marriage, with longer marriages expecting longer periods of spousal support. The general structure is:

  • Marriages between 0 and 15 years will see payments last 15% – 30% of that time
  • Marriages between 15 and 20 years will see payments last 30% – 40% of that time
  • Marriages lasting 20 or more years will see payments last 40% – 50% of that time

Modifying Spousal Maintenance

Life circumstances can change, including employment, income, health, and a variety of other factors. If you are currently paying or receiving spousal maintenance payments and seek to modify them, there are specific criteria that allow you to do so. In New York, you can petition to have your agreement modified as long as one of the following applies:

  • There have been at least three years since the initial agreement or previous modification
  • There has been a significant change in circumstances
  • There has been a change in income by at least 15%

FAQs About Awarding Spousal Support in New York

How Is Spousal Support Determined in New York?

Spousal support is determined based on need. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for the spouse with lower earning or earning potential an opportunity to regain financial stability during or after a divorce. The amount of support granted is based on several factors but is mostly informed by the length of the marriage and the disparity in income.

What Are the Rules for Spousal Maintenance in NY?

In New York, spousal maintenance, the more commonly used term for spousal support and alimony, may be ordered if one spouse is to be legally responsible for the reasonable care of the other spouse because of a disparity in income. This involves providing an amount of money or assets that allow the spouse to provide for their own needs in a reasonable manner.

How Do I Avoid Paying Spousal Support in NY?

Spousal support is a legal requirement if dictated by a court. However, there are several ways to avoid having to provide this type of support. Common ways include signing a pre- or postnuptial agreement, negotiating assets with your spouse instead of payments, proving there is not a need for spousal support, or filing for a fault-based divorce.

What Are the Different Types of Spousal Support in New York?

There are two types of spousal support in New York. The first type is temporary maintenance, in which a court may order one spouse to provide financial support to the other during the divorce process. The other type is post-divorce maintenance which is an amount determined in the divorce settlement and extends for a period of time that increases depending on how long the marriage lasted.

Spousal Maintenance Attorney in New York

Spousal maintenance can raise many questions for those who are going through a divorce or are already in a payment agreement. When you have questions about spousal support, contact the skilled and experienced attorneys at Trotto Law Firm, P.C. Our attorneys can help you get the information you need no matter what part of the process you are in.

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