Family Law: “Alimony” in New York

New York recognizes two types of support for a spouse: Spousal Support and Alimony (known as “maintenance”).  Alimony refers to support paid while the divorce action is pending, known as temporary maintenance, and money paid once the divorce is final. This article will focus on Alimony as spousal support is money a spouse pays to his/her spouse while still married.

When parties separate or divorce, an ex-spouse can be responsible to pay the other Maintenance; the terms and time limits of which are made part of the Judgment of Divorce.

Whether you receive alimony will depend on various factors, including: length of marriage, the ages and health of the spouses, your financial circumstances, earning potential, contributions to the marriage, and any other reasonable and necessary expense the Court wants to take into account. New York is one of the few states that have enacted a formula to determine the amount of temporary alimony, thereby cutting down on the emotional turmoil often found when deciding such monetary awards.

What follows is a very basic overview of a very complicated subject, meant only as an overview.  Each situation is different.  Under the formula, temporary maintenance is set at 30% of the higher-earning spouse’s income, minus 20% of the lower-earning spouse’s income, as long as the recipient does not end up with more than 40% of the couple’s combined income.

For example, a doctor who earns $300,000 (30%=$90,000) marries an artist who earns $30,000 (20%=$6,000) will be expected to pay alimony of approximately $84,000 per year ($90,000-$6,000=$84,000). We than have to add the two incomes together and multiply that by 40%; $330,000 x 40%=$132,000; finally subtract that number from the lower-earning spouse’s income: $132,000-$30,000=$102,000. The court will take the lower of the two numbers to determine temporary alimony, or $84,000 per year. Keep in mind, this formula is for temporary alimony (known as “pendent lite”) that you will receive while the divorce is in process; there is no formula for long-term post-divorce alimony – although this is a helpful guideline during negotiations.

Following a divorce, maintenance will either be considered “durational” meaning it has a fixed end date, or “non-durational” meaning it has no end date. Courts rarely enter a lifetime alimony and lean more towards an end date, such as re-marriage of a spouse, death of a spouse, or if the spouse begins a long-term living arrangement with a new partner.

Our Westchester family law attorneys will be able to assist you during these emotional times and ensure that you continue to be cared for in order to look toward the next phase of your life. Please contact our Westchester Divorce Attorneys today at (914) 864-2465 or (845) 628-4301 to discuss your rights.