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Spousal maintenance

Spousal maintenance is intended to provide financial assistance to a husband or wife during and/or after a divorce. These payments help ensure that they have the resources they need to maintain a standard of living similar to that which they enjoyed while married. In New York, there are four primary spousal maintenance arrangements.

  • Temporary: Support paid while the divorce is in progress. Once the decree is issued, temporary maintenance ends and may be replaced by permanent maintenance.
  • Rehabilitative: Financial assistance is provided only until the recipient spouse has been given a reasonable opportunity to get the education or training needed to obtain employment.
  • Terminable: The support ends on a specific date, usually after a number of payments have been made.
  • Permanent: Support payments are made indefinitely because the recipient spouse, due to disability, age, and/or limited education and job skills, cannot become self-sufficient enough to maintain a reasonable standard of living.

Which type will be ordered in any given divorce depends on what the spouses agree to or the court deems fair under the circumstances.

Calculating spousal maintenance

Spousal support differs from child support in that there is no mandated formula for calculating how much one spouse is required to pay the other. If the two parties are unable to reach an agreement on their own, the court may order a support amount after taking factors like the following into account:

  • The age and health (physical and mental) of each spouse
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The current income of each spouse
  • How marital property has been divided
  • Whether one spouse gave up their job to stay home with the children
  • Whether one spouse contributed to the career of the other
  • The standard of living that the couple maintained while married
  • The ability of the lower-earning spouse to earn enough to become self-sufficient
  • Income and property of the parties, including marital property
  • Which spouse will have custody of the children
  • Whether one spouse wasted (dissipated) marital property

These are the more common factors, but judges will consider any other facts that will contribute to a fair and equitable spousal maintenance order.

If you are about to undergo a divorce in New York and spousal maintenance is likely to be ordered, contact a New York family law attorney who will ensure that you receive the financial support you need. Alternatively, if you are the higher-income party, your attorney will see to it that you are not compelled to pay an unreasonable maintenance amount to your former spouse. In either case, experienced legal counsel is the best way to help you assert your rights, protect your interests, and preserve the financial resources you require to maintain your lifestyle as much as possible after the marriage ends.