Spousal Maintenance in New York

If you are headed toward divorce, you’re going to have a lot of questions, and one specifically: “Will I be ordered to pay spousal support?” or “Will my spouse be ordered to pay alimony?” For starters, we want to explain the difference between spousal support and spousal maintenance in New York, which some states refer to as “alimony.”

In New York, spousal support is paid on an as-needed basis during a divorce. For example, suppose a husband has been unemployed for a year while his wife was supporting him. In this situation, the court may award the husband spousal support while the divorce is pending through the courts. Once a divorce is final however, spousal support either ends or it’s converted to spousal maintenance, which is paid after a divorce is official.

Is Spousal Support Automatic?

Just because a couple is divorcing, that doesn’t mean the higher-earning spouse will be ordered to pay spousal support and maintenance. It comes down to the lower-earning spouse’s need for support and the wealthier spouse’s ability to pay it.

For example, if “Amanda” earns $30,000 a year as a teacher and her husband “Paul” earns $100,000 a year as an accountant, there is a strong possibility that Paul will be ordered to support Amanda at least temporarily because there is such a large discrepancy in income.

On the other hand, suppose both Amanda and Paul earn roughly $85,000 a year and Paul will be the non-custodial parent so he’ll be paying child support. Since Paul earns about the same as Amanda and because he’ll be paying child support for three children, the chances of him paying spousal support and maintenance are low.

Some of the factors considered by the court when determining whether to order spousal support or spousal maintenance, or both include:

  • Income and assets of each party
  • Age and health of each spouse
  • The duration of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s earning capacity
  • Whether child support will be paid
  • Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage

What if a Spouse Purposely Didn’t Work?

Sometimes a spouse purposely does not work during a good part of the marriage, not because the couple agreed they’d stay home, but because the spouse didn’t ensure they were gainfully employed. The motivations for unemployment vary – perhaps the spouse didn’t want to work, or perhaps they sensed divorce was on the horizon so they elected not to work in hopes of receiving spousal support. Regardless of the “reasons” behind intentional unemployment, it can be exasperating for the breadwinner who does not want to pay spousal support and maintenance.

These days, courts across the country are becoming less sympathetic towards spouses who stay out of the workforce for extended periods of time. Even if a spouse was a stay-at-home mother or father for years, that won’t necessarily be an excuse for not going back to work after a divorce. More (and more) judges are telling spouses, “Sorry, but you’re going to have to get a job soon,” especially when the judge is a woman who paid for full-time childcare so she could have a successful career of her own.

If you’re getting a divorce on Staten Island, contact The Law Office of Keith M. Casella, P.C. to schedule a free consultation. We’d be glad to answer your questions and help you understand what to expect as far as spousal support and maintenance are concerned in your divorce.