Ex-wife opening an alimony/spousal support check.
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In New York State, alimony is referred to as spousal maintenance. But no matter what you call it, unlike child support and equitable distribution of marital property, it is not automatic. Instead, a spouse will need to demonstrate eligibility for maintenance, and then a calculation will need to be made. Moreover, there are conditions under which an award of maintenance can be modified. If you think you may be eligible for an award of maintenance, then you need to understand this concept so that you can work with your divorce lawyer to secure such payments.

What Is the Eligibility for a Maintenance Award?

In a divorce, it is not uncommon for there to be an income disparity between the parties. In many marriages, one partner stays home to take care of the children while the other goes to work. Even if both spouses work, you can have a situation where one earns significantly more than the other. It is in these situations where one spouse becomes financially dependent on the other that the courts will award spousal maintenance.

There are three factors that the court will look at when deciding to make a maintenance award in favor of one partner. Each of these will involve the court reviewing the income of each spouse, the assets that will be divided in equitable distribution, the existing expenses and liabilities, and the net worth statements that the parties exchanged. The court can also make an award of pendente lite maintenance that will last while the divorce case is still pending.

First, it will look at the standard of living that was established during the marriage. Like the song goes, if the parties went from rags to riches, then there is an expectation that this lifestyle will continue after the marriage has ended. 

Second, the court will look at whether each spouse will end up with sufficient income and assets to help provide for his or her reasonable needs after the divorce is granted. If a husband is left with a nice house, but does not have the income to cover taxes and upkeep, while the wife earns a substantially higher income, this will bolster the husband’s claim for maintenance.

Finally, the court will weigh whether the other spouse will have the income and assets to provide for the payment of maintenance for the other spouse. If it turns out that the couple were living well beyond their means, and that neither has the financial wherewithal to maintain such a lavish lifestyle, then the court may decide not to award maintenance.

How Is Maintenance Calculated?

In determining the length and amount of maintenance, the court will look at 20 different factors. The three most important ones are the length of the marriage, the income and property of each spouse, and their present and future earning capacities. Other factors, like the age and health of the spouses, evidence of spousal abuse, and wasteful dissipation of marital assets, may increase or decrease the odds of getting an award, as well as the specific amounts awarded.

In general, the length of the marriage will determine how long one spouse will have to make maintenance payments to the other. If the marriage lasted less than 15 years, then you multiply the number of years of the marriage by 15% and 30%, with the first number being the minimum number of years and the second number being the maximum. 

Similarly, if the marriage was between 15 and 20 years, the number of years will be multiplied by 30% and 40% to get the minimum and maximum length of maintenance payments. Finally, for marriages over 20 years, you multiply the number of years of marriage by 35% and 50% to get this range. However, these are durational guidelines and the court has discretion over how many years of maintenance and how much maintenance to award.

To determine the amount of maintenance, the court will look at the incomes of the higher earning and lower earning spouses. The current cap of the payor spouse’s income is $228,000.00. However, the court has discretion to award maintenance over this cap. The court will also take into account whether there are minor children, which will affect the percentages used to calculate these amounts. 

Can Maintenance Be Modified?

The answer is sometimes. First, if either party dies, then the award of maintenance will end. Also, if the receiving party remarries, then he or she will no longer be entitled to receive maintenance payments. Second, maintenance will end on the date set by the court or contained in the settlement agreement. 

If You Are Going through a Divorce or Considering Filing for One, You Better Call Saul!

The issues raised by spousal maintenance can have a significant impact on your personal finances during and after a divorce. You need to make sure you have experienced representation. The divorce attorneys at The Saul Law Firm, LLP will help guide you through the divorce process,  assisting you in obtaining the award you deserve. Contact us today.

The Saul Law Firm, LLP helps clients throughout Garden City, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn, New York City, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Westchester County.