Spousal support is financial support paid by a spouse or domestic partner to the other during and after the separation or divorce. New York, the law governing spousal support (also known as spousal maintenance) has one overarching goal: for the party receiving support to become financially independent. As a result, it is rare for courts in New York to grant spousal support for an indefinite term.
Unlike child support, there is no strict formula that New York courts follow in awarding spousal support. Parties are free to come to their own determination for a fair amount to be awarded, however, if the parties cannot agree the court will make a decision.
The courts will consider a number of factors in determining spousal support. However, the most important factor considered by courts in determining a fair amount of spousal support is the standard of living of the supported party.
Additionally, courts will also consider the following factors:
- The property and income of both parties
- The duration of the marriage
- The age and health of both parties
- The present and future earning capacity of both parties
- The ability of the party seeking maintenance to become self-sufficient, and the amount of time and/or training required
- The reduced or lost lifetime earning capacity of the party seeking support as a result of having delayed education, training, or career opportunities during the marriage
- The presence of children of the marriage in the homes of the parties
- The need of either party to care for family members other than children
- The need of either party to pay for additional expenses
- Tax consequences for each party
- The waste or depletion of assets of marital property committed by either spouse
As in most states, New York courts are not limited to these factors. They have discretion to consider any information that would change the amount of spousal support.
New York’s Domestic Relations Law provides that where issues arise regarding support or maintenance, each party to the marriage or domestic partnership is required to make a complete disclosure of their financial state. This disclosure includes a "sworn statement" of net worth. The law is designed to ensure that a court’s determination of spousal support is fair.
Additionally, New York law provides remedies for a party who was awarded spousal support but fails to receive it. A party that refuses to pay spousal support is subject to contempt proceedings to ensure that court orders are followed.
When either party subject to a spousal support award experiences changed circumstances in their financial situation, the party may request a modification of support. In determining whether to modify a spousal support award, the court will consider the following factors:
- The paying party has lost employment or becomes seriously ill and cannot work
- The receiving party finds work that increases their income
- The receiving party’s financial situation has been impacted negatively requiring a higher spousal support award
- The paying party’s financial circumstances change due to a good faith retirement.
Navigating the complicated laws regarding your rights as a payee or payer of spousal support is difficult. A qualified family law attorney in New York can help you get a fair award for spousal support.