Alimony is financial support that one spouse provides another spouse in some cases when they legally separate or divorce. In New York, it is known as maintenance.
Maintenance is monetary payments that are made at specific times, usually weekly or monthly, for a duration of time that is ordered by the court. Because it is intended to support the receiving spouse, it is typically paid by the spouse that was the breadwinner during the marriage to the spouse who earned less money during the marriage, and, therefore, is in need of financial support.
Maintenance payments are intended to provide financial support to a spouse that may not be financially stable as a result of the divorce. Payments may be ordered to allow the receiving spouse to maintain their lifestyle they had during the marriage or to provide them with sufficient time to obtain financial stability.
How Do I Qualify for Alimony?
When or not a spouse can receive maintenance in New York depends greatly on their financial status and their need for financial support. This is especially true if they are seeking temporary alimony, which is only intended to provide support while the couple is going through the divorce process.
A spouse may also qualify for maintenance if they and their spouse have already agreed that one spouse should receive maintenance. It is important to note, however, that this agreement must be in writing in order to be enforceable.
How Much Alimony Can I Receive?
The amount of maintenance that a spouse may receive primarily depends on how much their spouse earns and whether or not they will also be receiving child support from their spouse. Currently, in New York, there is an income cap of $184,000 of the annual income of the paying spouse.
If the paying spouse’s income is either equal to or less than the income cap, the court will calculate a maintenance amount by following a specific formula which involves examining both the incomes of the paying spouse and the receiving spouse. There are three formulas which may be used to calculate the amount of maintenance the receiving spouse is entitled to receive.
The formula that is used depends on whether or not the paying spouse will also be paying child support to the receiving spouse. It also depends on whether or not the amount that was calculated by the initial formula would result in the income of the paying spouse falling below a predetermined amount set for supporting themselves.
Although the court is required to follow the applicable formula in order to determine the base amount of maintenance, it also has discretion to award an additional amount of maintenance if the paying spouse has an income above the previously mentioned cap amount.
In order to determine how much maintenance should be ordered beyond the base amount, the court will consider several factors, including:
- The health and age of each spouse;
- Whether or not the receiving spouse needs further education or training;
- The earning capacity, both present and future, of each spouse;
- Whether there were any actions by one spouse against the other, including domestic violence, that have prevented or currently prevent one spouse from earning an income or otherwise obtaining employment;
- The reduced or lost earning capacity of the receiving spouse that was caused by delaying or forgoing training, education, or opportunities to further their career throughout their marriage; and
- The standard of living experienced by the spouses during the marriage.
There is one circumstance in which the amount of maintenance is not based on the income of the paying spouse. If the paying spouse fails to show the court adequate evidence of their current total income, the court may base the amount on something other than the formulas mentioned above.
In these cases, the court may base the maintenance amount of the financial needs of the receiving spouse or the standard of living of the receiving spouse prior to the divorce, whichever is higher.
How Long Does Alimony Last?
When the court makes a determination of how much maintenance should be paid to the receiving spouse, it also determines how long those payments will last. If the maintenance payments are temporary, they will likely end when the court issues a final divorce decree or if one of the spouses passes away prior to the finalization of the divorce.
Other than these circumstances, the duration of the maintenance typically depends on the duration of the marriage. New York state law contains guidelines for the duration of maintenance payments using a set percentage range based on the length of the marriage. These include:
- 15% to 30% of the length of the marriage for a marriage lasting up to 15 years;
- 30% to 40% of the length of the marriage for a marriage lasting between 15 years and 20 years; and
- 35% to 59% of the length of the marriage for a marriage lasting more than 20 years.
The court is not required to follow these guidelines when it determines the duration of the maintenance payments. Should the court choose not to follow the duration guidelines, it will need to consider the same factors that were considered when providing a larger amount of maintenance than the base amount.
In addition, maintenance payments may terminate prior to the original termination date set by the court if:
- Either spouse passes away;
- The receiving spouse remarries; or
- The court, after receiving a motion to modify the maintenance order, determines that the best course of action is to terminate maintenance payments early.
How Can I Petition for Alimony?
In order to petition for maintenance, even if the maintenance is temporary, the individual needing alimony will be required to begin divorce proceedings. This means that they will be required to file a Summons with Notice or a Summons with a Verified Complaint.
Regardless of which of these documents the individual chooses to file, they will need to include a request for maintenance in the Ancillary or Other Relief section of the documents. Once the individual has filed the initial divorce documents, they will be required to serve them on the other spouse along with a Notice of Guideline Maintenance.
After an individual has served divorce paperwork on their spouse, they will be required to complete an Annual Income Worksheet and a Maintenance Guidelines Worksheet to show the court their current financial status and the reasons they need maintenance payments. These worksheets will also be used by the court to calculate the amount of maintenance that will be ordered.
If an individual makes a mistake on any of this paperwork, they may not receive any alimony payments. Because of this, it is essential to hire an attorney to assist with completing this paperwork in order to avoid any mistakes while petitioning for maintenance.
Where Can I Find the Right Lawyer?
It is essential to have the assistance of an experienced New York family lawyer when petitioning for maintenance in order to avoid any potential mistakes. Obtaining maintenance is often the difference between continuing to live as you did during your marriage or struggling to survive paycheck to paycheck.
It is essential to file a petition for maintenance that is free from mistakes. Having an attorney on your case may mean the difference between obtaining maintenance payments and having to start over without financial help.