Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, provides financial compensation for a lower-earning or non-working spouse after a divorce. Although spousal maintenance is most often associated with wives who were homemakers during their marriage, New York’s law is gender-neutral. Men can request and receive spousal maintenance after a divorce if their financial circumstances dictate it is appropriate.
Types of Spousal Maintenance
There are three general types of spousal maintenance:
- Temporary. Temporary spousal maintenance is paid while the divorce is pending.
- Rehabilitative. Rehabilitative spousal maintenance is paid for a set duration to allow the lower-earning spouse time to become financially self-supporting.
- Permanent. Permanent spousal maintenance is rare but can be ordered when there is a long marriage and the lower-earning spouse faces obstacles that will not allow them to become self-supporting.
Factors Used to Determine Eligibility for Spousal Maintenance
There are many different factors the court will evaluate before deciding whether to award spousal maintenance after a New York divorce. The most significant include:
- Spousal incomes and shares of marital property. Spousal maintenance is most likely to be approved when there is a large discrepancy in the resources of each spouse.
- Length of the marriage. Generally speaking, longer marriages result in larger financial awards. However, if the couple was living apart before filing for divorce, this can affect how the court views the duration of the marriage.
- Age and health. A spouse who is older and in poor health will be seen as more deserving of support than one who is younger and still capable of working. A disabled spouse who lacks the capacity to ever become self-supporting will be seen as most in need of ongoing support.
- Present and future earning capacity. Spouses who are currently completing education or job training programs will likely be awarded spousal support for a shorter term than those with more limited earning potential.
- Expenses related to education and training. The primary purpose of spousal maintenance is to allow the recipient to become self-supporting. Often, this includes paying for training necessary to enter the workforce or boost existing earnings.
- Caretaking duties that will inhibit earning potential. This includes providing continued care for minor children, as well as elderly or disabled relatives.
- Previous wasteful spending. When a spouse seeking support has been shown to have mismanaged marital assets, maintenance payments can be reduced to reflect this.
- Contributions during the marriage. Earnings, contributions as a homemaker or caregiver, and efforts made in support of a spouse’s career will all be considered by the court in determining spousal maintenance awards.
- Acts by one spouse that prevented the other from seeking employment or pursuing higher earning opportunities. This includes domestic violence and other similar forms of spousal misconduct.
- Health insurance costs. A spouse who was previously covered under a family plan and now must seek private insurance can ask the court to consider the cost of this expense in determining a maintenance award.
- Other factors deemed appropriate by the court. Beyond the general guidelines already in place, the court reserves the right to consider any special circumstances each person faces that could be relevant in determining a spousal maintenance award.
How Prenuptial Agreements Can Affect Your Right to Spousal Maintenance
New York, unlike many other states, does allow spouses to forfeit their right to spousal maintenance in a prenuptial agreement. However, the agreement may not be valid if it was signed under duress, contains inaccurate or insufficient information about the financial position of either spouse, or was signed without separate legal counsel for both spouses.
Even if the prenuptial agreement was created legally, the court can opt to not enforce the terms if doing so would put one spouse at a severe financial disadvantage. Therefore, you should not assume your prenuptial agreement will prevent you from successfully receiving spousal maintenance after your divorce.
Get the Help You Need to Move Forward
There’s no doubt that ending your marriage can be an emotionally draining experience. You may be nervous about what the future holds, but Alatsas Law Firm is here to help. We will explain what to expect from your case and help you build the strongest possible argument for spousal maintenance. Our goal is to ensure you have the resources necessary to move forward with confidence.
Alatsas Law Firm is conveniently located for residents of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Our ground floor office is handicapped accessible with a subway stop and two bus lines nearby. Please contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.