Alimony – also called spousal support or spousal maintenance – is a payment one spouse makes to the other during a divorce or once it’s finalized.
The purpose is to allow both parties the opportunity to maintain a similar lifestyle to the one they had before the marriage ended or they began living separately.
Types of alimony available
In New York, courts can award the following types of alimony:
- Temporary: Paid to the receiving spouse while the divorce process is ongoing until a judge issues a final order and creates a permanent alimony award.
- Rehabilitative: Common in cases when spouses have a significant difference in job skills and income. This can allow the receiving spouse to pursue job training to increase earning capabilities. This type is usually temporary.
- Permanent: After a divorce is finalized, the amount and length of payments depend upon several factors.
Calculating alimony in New York
Under state law, either spouse can request alimony. Courts use a statutory formula to keep payments consistent instead of leaving it up to the judge’s sole discretion. To determine the amount, judges consider these factors:
- Property and income of both spouses
- The marriage’s length
- Both spouses’ age and health
- Spouses’ future income potential
- Ability of the receiving spouse to be self-supporting
- Domestic violence or other actions by one spouse inhibiting the other’s employment opportunities
- Lost income for a spouse after giving up their career, such as becoming a stay-at-home parent
- Contributions to the marriage by a stay-at-home spouse
- Children and whether they remain at home
- Expenses associated with disabled children or other relatives that require care
- Child-related additional expenses, such as education, daycare or medical costs
- Wasted property by a spouse, such as gambling addictions or other bad or addictive behavior
- Loss of health insurance benefits
- Transfer of property, such as a spouse attempting to hide assets
- Any other factor the court deems relevant
New York caps a paying spouse’s income at $184,000. Additional support won’t be included for income above that level unless the judge determines it’s appropriate.
How long does “permanent” mean?
Spousal maintenance can be “durational” – meaning for a certain amount of time – or “nondurational” – permanent or until either spouse dies, the recipient remarries or lives with a partner who is effectively their spouse. The court uses the following guidelines for determining the duration:
- Marriages of 0 to 15 years: 15% to 30% of the marriage’s length
- Marriages 15 to 20 years: 30% to 40% of the marriage’s length
- Marriages over 20 years: 35% to 50% of the marriage’s length
Petitioning for alimony
To begin receiving payments, you must first file for divorce. After your spouse is served, you’ll need to fill out a worksheet that will help the court calculate alimony. It’s advisable to work with an experienced divorce attorney to complete this paperwork correctly to get the maximum amount you are entitled to receive.