Early Law Group P.C.

Spousal Maintenance / Child Support

When a couple divorces, the court will decide whether to grant spousal maintenance, which is court-ordered money paid to support one given spouse. What used to be referred to as alimony, the purpose of spousal maintenance is to help the receiving spouse become financially independent after a divorce. Spousal maintenance is gender-neutral, and courts do grant spousal maintenance to both men and women, depending on the circumstances. Spousal maintenance is ordered by the Supreme Court in a divorce action. 


When deciding on spousal maintenance in New York, courts primarily focus on the couple’s property, the income of each spouse, and the standard of living while married. To set the amount and duration of spousal maintenance, the court must consider the following factors:

  • Income and Property: Courts are required to consider the income and property owned by both spouses. If the person seeking spousal maintenance will receive a large portion of the couple’s marital property, or if that person has significant other assets, such as an inheritance, the court may take this into account and lower the spousal maintenance award. 


  • Length of Marriage: A longer marriage is more likely to result in a larger spousal maintenance amount, particularly if the spouse requesting maintenance has stayed home with children or earned significantly less than the other spouse.


  • Age and Health of Both Spouses: If a receiving spouse is in poor health or of advanced age, the spousal maintenance award can be affected.


  • The Current and Future Earning Capabilities of Both Spouses: The court will also focus on both the current status of the person seeking spousal maintenance as well as their future ability to be self-sufficient. For example, if the person seeking spousal maintenance truly lacks the ability to become self-sufficient, due to age or health factors, the court will shape spousal maintenance to address the person’s financial limitations. On the other hand, if the person seeking spousal maintenance has the ability to obtain employment or education and ultimately become self-sufficient, then maintenance will be granted for a shorter period of time.  


  • Reduced or Lost Lifetime Earning Capacity as a Result of Delayed Employment or Education During the Marriage: This factor pertains to the impact that the spouses’ family choices have on their financial security shall they divorce. For example, often times spouses decide that one person will be the primary caretaker for the children and the home while the other person provides economically for the family. If the spouses divorce, it may prove to be impossible for the primary caretaker spouse to resume their career after several years of not working while being married. The amount of spousal maintenance granted in such cases may include a consideration of the stay-at-home partner’s loss of lifetime earnings.


  • A Spouse’s Earning Capacity is Inhibited by Ongoing Care for Children with Disabilities or Elderly Parents: A spouse who must stay home to care for other family members due to different circumstances may also be entitled to a larger spousal maintenance award.


  • Where the Children Live: If the children live with the receiving spouse, it could restrict that spouse’s ability to earn an income. Thus, the court may take this into account when granted spousal maintenance. 


  • Tax Consequences to Each Spouse: Spousal maintenance is considered income under the tax code. Therefore, a person receiving spousal maintenance must claim the amount received as income on federal and state income tax returns. Equally, the person paying support is entitled to an income tax deduction. When considering the amount of spousal maintenance, the court will consider the tax impact on each party. 


  • Acts by One Spouse Against the Other Spouse: This factor allows the court to consider domestic violence and spousal misconduct.

How is the Amount of Spousal Maintenance Determined?

Since October 26, 2015, New York has had a presumptive formula to decide how much spousal maintenance should be paid. Spousal maintenance is set by a math formula, based upon each spouse’s income. It can be calculated on the NYS court system’s website at http://www.nycourts.gov/divorce/calculator.pdf.


Whenever there is an issue about spousal maintenance in a divorce case, each spouse must make a complete disclosure of their financial state to the other spouse, including a statement of the spouse’s net worth. A court can grant temporary spousal maintenance while the case is pending. The court, however, is still required to follow the formula to determine the presumably correct amount of spousal maintenance.

What's the Duration of Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance can be “durational” or “nondurational” depending on your case. The court orders durational maintenance for a fixed time period usually in cases where the party receiving maintenance can become self-supporting after several years. In New York, the court may determine the duration of spousal maintenance by using the following guidelines:

  • Marriages lasting 0 – 15 years: Spousal maintenance could last 15% – 30% of the length of the marriage.
  • Marriages lasting 15 – 20 years: Spousal maintenance could last 30% – 40% of the length of the marriage.
  • Marriages lasting more than 20 years: Spousal maintenance could last between 35% – 50% of the length of the marriage.


Nondurational spousal maintenance is permanent and usually does not come to an end until either spouse dies, the remarriage of the receiving party or the recipient spouse regularly lives with a partner while demonstrating that person as a spouse.

How a Family Law Attorney Can Help with Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance can be complicated to understand depending on the situation. Many factors are taken into account by the court and it’s important to have a clear understanding of each aspect. Thus, it’s imperative to have an experienced family law attorney who thoroughly knows about spousal maintenance in New York. Latonia Early-Hubelbank, Esq. at Early Family Law can help you better understand how spousal maintenance and its calculated amounts are determined by the New York State courts.

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