Alimony, or spousal support, refers to payments made from one spouse to the other following a legal separation or divorce proceedings. Family courts generally award spousal support in situations in which the spouses have unequal earning power, and have been married to each other for a considerable amount of time.

Spousal support is intended to equalize the financial resources of the divorcing or separating couple. However, it is important to note that spousal support is not automatically granted, and it is not ordered in every divorce. The judge may award temporary spousal support while the divorce is pending.

Some examples of relevant factors generally taken into consideration when calculating spousal support payments include, but may not be limited to:

  • Each spouse’s ability to support themselves;
  • The necessary amount of time to obtain a job or training in order to become employed;
  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • Reasons for the separation;
  • Each party’s age, physical, and mental condition;
  • The ability of the paying spouse to support themselves while making support payments; and

Other financial responsibilities and resources of each party involved, such as:

  1. Previous child support awards;
  2. Each party’s financial obligations;
  3. Each party’s right to receive retirement benefits; and
  4. The taxability or non-taxability of each party’s income.

Spousal support can be paid in one lump sum, or on a temporary or permanent basis. The court will generally consider the circumstances of each party when determining how much assistance is needed, and for how long.

How Is Spousal Support Calculated in New York? What Other Factors Are Considered By the Court?

In New York specifically, spousal support is referred to as “temporary maintenance.” As of 2016, New York law has set theoretical amounts, as well as theoretical amounts of time for temporary maintenance payments. Although these amounts are considered to be correct and are therefore used as guidelines, judges have considerably large amounts of discretion when ordering different amounts or timelines. However, the court must explain their reasoning for the differing figures in order for their judgment to be considered legally binding.

New York laws governing spousal support payments are largely concerned with the recipient becoming financially independent. As such, it is considerably rare for New York courts to order spousal support payments for an indefinite amount of time.

According to a law passed in 2015, maintenance and support amounts are to be determined by a set mathematical formula that is based on each spouse’s income. This can be accomplished through the NYS court system’s website.

In addition to some of the aforementioned factors used to calculate spousal support payments in general, the following are some examples of other factors that the court may consider:

  • Both present and future earning capacity for each party;
  • The amount of reduced or lost lifetime earning capacity of the party seeking support due to delayed education, training, or career opportunities due to being married;
  • Whether children are involved;
  • Whether either party is the primary caretaker for someone other than a shared child, such as one spouse’s elderly parent; and
  • The amount of waste or depletion of assets of marital property committed by either spouse.

New York is similar to other states in that its family courts are not limited to the above factors when considering whether to award spousal support, and how much. NY courts are granted a rather generous amount of discretion with which to consider any information that could change the amount of awarded support.

Are There Any New York Laws Created In Order to Legally Protect the Paying Spouse?

According to New York’s Domestic Relations Law, each party to the marriage or domestic partnership must completely disclose their financial state when there are issues involving spousal support payments. This disclosure must include a sworn statement of net worth.

The New York Domestic Relations Law was designed in order to ensure that the court’s spousal support determination is fair and legally enforceable. Additionally, there may be remedies available to parties who were awarded spousal support payments but have not received any. The party who fails to pay ordered support payments could be held in contempt of court in order to ensure they follow court orders from there on.

Can a Court’s Order Be Modified At a Later Date? What Else Should I Know About Spousal Support in New York?

Generally speaking, a spousal support order can be modified at a later date under specific circumstances. When either party experiences a change of circumstances regarding their finances, they may request a modification of support order from the court.

Some examples of the factors that a judge will most likely considering when determining whether to award a modification include, but may not be limited to:

  • If the paying spouse has lost their job;
  • If the paying spouse has become considerably ill and/or disabled, and can no longer work;
  • The receiving party has an increase in income;
  • The recipient’s financial circumstances have been negatively impacted, which would necessitate a higher spousal support award; and
  • The paying party’s financial circumstances have changed due to a good faith retirement.

New York spousal support orders are generally given in Family Court. However, temporary spousal support orders may be given in the Supreme Court, when ordered as part of a divorce. Once the divorce is considered to be complete, the Family Court is granted the jurisdiction to either modify or enhance the Supreme Court’s orders.

When petitioning for a modification in New York, the requester must file a modification petition with their local Family Court. This petition must explain the change in their circumstances. However, if the spousal support was determined by a contract made between the spouses outside of court, the requester will need to file more than simply a “substantial change” in order to modify the contract.

New York judges may place a limit on how long spousal support payments are to be made. As of 2016, the following formula is used to determine how long spousal support should last:

  • If the marriage lasts for up to fifteen years, payments should last between 15% and 30% of the marriage;
  • If the marriages lasts between fifteen and twenty years, payments should last between 30% and 40% of the marriage; and
  • If the marriage lasts more than twenty years, spousal support payment should last between 35% and 50% of the marriage.

If the recipient remarries, or if either spouse dies, spousal support payments will end. New York courts may not limit how long support is required for current spouses.

Should I Consult a New York Attorney For Spousal Support Issues?

If you live in New York and are experiencing any sort of issues with spousal support orders, you should absolutely consult with an experienced family lawyer in New York. Because state laws vary in terms of spousal support, an experienced and local family law attorney would be best suited to helping you understand your state’s specific laws and how they will affect your case.

If you are the paying party, an attorney can help ensure you stay in compliance with the orders, or modify the existing orders should your situation have changed since the initial order. Should you be accused of being in contempt of court for missed payments, your attorney will be able to defend you.

If you are the receiving party, your attorney can help ensure you are receiving your support payments appropriately. In any case, your attorney will work to protect your legal rights and can also assist in filing for support payment modifications.Finally, an attorney will be able to represent you in a court of law, as necessary.