Is alimony a sure thing?

When couples decide to end a marriage, things may start amicably. However, once the process gets going that same couple may turn from agreeable to unwilling to compromise on anything.

In a high-asset New York divorce, one of the most contested elements is spousal support. If a spouse wants alimony, does the other have to oblige? Certain conditions must exist before a court can rule one way or the other.

Length of the marriage

Before alimony is on the table, the first measure of qualification is how long the marriage lasted. In New York, the regulations state the parties must have a long-term relationship for spousal support to apply. A marriage lasting at least 10 years is long enough to qualify for alimony.

Income potential of the spouses

Alimony payments serve to bridge the income gap between the parties. This gap may exist in some part due to one party working less or not at all to stay home and raise the children. When the court calculates spousal maintenance, it looks at how much earning potential the spouse at home has. The duration of alimony gives the lesser-earning spouse a respectable amount of time to seek employment.

Overall contribution to the marriage

Marriage is like playing a team sport. Both spouses have roles, goals and responsibilities. One spouse may have a higher income potential than the other. In order to achieve that potential, both parties decide the other spouse will stay home and tend to the domestic side of the partnership. When these same two people get divorced 12 years later, the court looks at what each brought to the marriage. The court weighs the contribution of the unemployed spouse against what the working spouse did for the union, not just financially but emotionally.

It may not seem fair that a former spouse should receive spousal support, especially if the other spouse feels like he or she made the money. However, the court may not look favorably on that point of view.

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