Is There a Difference Between Spousal Support & Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal support, often referred to as alimony, is a legal obligation established by divorce law in New York. It mandates that one spouse provide financial assistance to the other during or after the dissolution of their marriage. This obligation is designed to prevent significant imbalances in the financial situations of the two parties, particularly in cases where one spouse has been financially dependent on the other during the marriage.
Determining spousal support is a complex process that takes into consideration several factors, including the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, their current and future potential to earn income, and the distribution of material property.
In New York, the term “alimony” is no longer in use within the legal framework. Instead, the state refers to these payments as “spousal maintenance” or simply “maintenance”. This change in terminology signifies a shift in the legal perspective of the payments. Unlike “alimony”, which was historically associated with a lifetime obligation towards a dependent spouse, “maintenance” is perceived as a temporary measure. This measure is designed to allow the lesser-earning spouse to get back on their feet financially post-divorce, reflecting the modern view that both spouses have an individual responsibility for their own financial well-being after the dissolution of the marriage.
Types of Spousal Maintenance in New York
No two marriages are alike, which means no two divorces are either. To accommodate the range of financial needs during and after separation, there are multiple types of spousal maintenance plans, including:
- Temporary Maintenance: This type of spousal support is awarded during the divorce proceedings and is intended to maintain the financial status quo of the spouse who earns less until the divorce is finalized. The amount is typically calculated using a formula defined by New York law—considering factors such as each spouse’s income and the presence of children.
- Post-Divorce Maintenance: This is the financial support provided by one spouse to the other following the finalization of the divorce. The duration and amount of post-divorce maintenance is determined by several factors, including the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties involved, their respective incomes, and the standard of living established during the marriage. This type of maintenance can further be categorized into two types:
- Non-Durational Maintenance: This is awarded in cases where the marriage lasted for less than 15 years. The duration of the support is typically not equal to the length of the marriage and ends once the receiving spouse is able to become financially independent.
- Durational Maintenance: Typically awarded in marriages that lasted more than 15 years, durational maintenance has a set end date which is usually a percentage of the length of the marriage. It is intended to allow the recipient time to become self-supporting.
Spousal Support Modification & Termination
In New York, spousal support is not a fixed decree and can be modified under certain circumstances. If either party experiences a significant change in circumstances, such as a dramatic increase or decrease in income, a job loss, or a severe illness, they can petition the court to modify the spousal support order. Importantly, the alteration is not automatic; the petitioning party must demonstrate substantial change warranting modification.
As for termination, spousal maintenance in New York generally ends if the recipient remarries or either party passes away. Additionally, the court may determine a specific date for the end of the support, especially in the case of durational maintenance.
If you are considering divorce, or in the midst of divorce proceedings, it’s important to choose a trusted family law attorney to represent your best interests. Our team at Jayson Lutzky can provide comprehensive legal advice on issues such as divorce, spousal maintenance, and child custody. Call us at (718) 550-2881 to schedule a free consultation today!