Although you won’t be able to actually file for divorce until the courts re-open, you know that your marriage is over, and it’s only a matter of time before everything that characterized your married life changes. This could include where you live and how much time you spend with the kids. It will definitely include money.
Money is a common worry when any couple divorces. Will you have enough to pay rent on your new apartment AND cover child support? If you’re staying in the marital home, then how will you pay the mortgage and utilities alone?
If you stopped working several years ago to focus on raising a family, then the situation is more worrying. Will you get spousal support (alimony) if you ask for it?
While it’s possible, very few support awards are indefinite. Below is an overview of how spousal maintenance has traditionally been handled and how New York law regards it today.
An overview of spousal maintenance
The original purpose of alimony was to ensure that women were not left financially bereft at a time when few wives worked outside the home, and employment resources were limited. The goal was to help them maintain the lifestyle they were accustomed to while married.
This principle is illustrated in the 1965 Wisconsin case, Radandt v. Radandt. During their 20-year marriage, the husband enjoyed a successful career and reached the title of CEO while the wife dedicated herself to raising the children and supporting her husband’s rise in the corporation. When determining how much alimony to award, the judge concluded that the husband had an obligation to support her in the manner she was accustomed to.
Today, it’s different. Not only do men have the right to seek spousal maintenance when appropriate, but, depending on the circumstances and length of the marriage, women can be expected to take steps to become more financially self-sufficient. This means that alimony awards tend to be of limited duration.
Spousal maintenance in New York
While it’s commonly assumed that you can’t seek spousal support until the divorce is finalized, New York allows for temporary maintenance awards that enable you to meet your reasonable living expenses while the divorce is in progress.
Since 2016, maintenance awards have been established using a mathematical formula that takes the income of both spouses into account as well as marital assets and other sources of income, such as retirement accounts.
In general, for marriages lasting up to 15 years, support payments may last anywhere from 15% to 30% of the relationship’s duration. If you were married 15 to 20 years, then the percentage range increases to 30% to 40% of the marriage length, while marriages that lasted over 20 years can qualify you for a maintenance award for up to 50% of the marriage duration.
You may be able to discuss your support needs with your spouse and include them in the divorce settlement agreement. If that proves impossible, then working with a New York divorce attorney can help you protect your rights. Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx divorce and family law attorney with over 36 years of legal experience. He is offering remote consultations during the pandemic, so don’t hesitate to reach out. You may reach his office at 718-329-9500.