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Understanding spousal support in New York

On Behalf of | May 21, 2024 | Divorce

One of the biggest concerns many people have about their divorce is about the effect it will have on finances. A divorce usually means going from a lifestyle involving two incomes to one, which could necessarily cause financial distress.

While permanent alimony is largely a thing of the past, spousal support is still awarded in some New York divorces. Unlike alimony, which is money paid from one spouse to another after the divorce is final, spousal support is money paid while the divorce is pending.

The purpose of spousal support

Spousal support, sometimes called maintenance, is meant to be temporary. The court can set a reasonable amount to be paid to one spouse from the other until the divorce is final. The goal of spousal support is to provide financial stability for the receiving spouse during or even before the divorce process.

If you are worried about not being able to financially support yourself on your own, you can petition the court for spousal support. A court can award spousal support before a divorce action is filed. If a divorce action is filed in the future, the spousal support order will likely become part of the divorce action.

When spousal support is awarded when a divorce has already been started, the spousal support will generally continue until the divorce is complete. The divorce process can take time. Although New York does not have a waiting period for a divorce to be finalized, the process can still sometimes take weeks or months.

Therefore, spousal support can provide you with the income you need while you navigate the challenges of becoming single and supporting yourself. It provides a financial cushion while you seek job opportunities, a new living situation or anything else that helps you adjust to post-divorce life.

How is spousal support calculated?

Since each marriage is unique, the amount of spousal support awarded is different for each case. However, some general guidelines are followed.

The court usually sets an initial amount of spousal support based off you and your spouse’s respective incomes and the length of your marriage. There are several factors a court may examine to adjust the number.

Some of these include the standard of living you were accustomed to during the marriage and whether the paying spouse can afford the spousal support payments. The court will also sometimes examine the anticipated marital property division as part of the divorce when setting a spousal support amount.

For example, if you are requesting a certain amount of spousal support, but you are the one receiving a major asset, such as a retirement fund or substantial savings account, the court may lower the amount of spousal support paid to you.

Although spousal support is normally meant to end once the divorce is final, it can last longer if you and your spouse agree on another end date. If the spousal support extends beyond the date the divorce is final, it will typically automatically end upon the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the spouse receiving the spousal support.