Spousal Support

Divorce Lawyers in Buffalo, NY

Like many other couples across the country, those in Buffalo and nearby areas are not immune to the fact that marriages end and divorces are granted. However, even though a couple gets a divorce, that doesn’t mean their obligations to financially support each other come to an end. Like other states, New York has laws that control how spousal support payments are to be made both during and after a divorce. The official term for spousal support in New York is “maintenance,” but it’s often referred to as alimony, as well. Therefore, we may use all three terms interchangeably.

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What Is Spousal Maintenance?

The purpose of maintenance is to provide financial assistance to the financially dependent spouse in a divorce. During the course of a marriage, one spouse may come to rely on another spouse’s income. When that marriage ends, the courts will expect the financially stronger spouse to support the financially dependent spouse. Exactly how much spousal support will be given and how long support will last is up to the court, which will consider many factors in making that determination.

Maintenance can be divided into two types: temporary and permanent. Temporary maintenance (sometimes referred to as pendente lite maintenance) is the payment of spousal support for the duration of the divorce only. Depending on the facts of the case, a court may choose not to award temporary maintenance.

Permanent maintenance is exactly what it sounds like, but doesn’t start until the divorce is complete. A spouse ordered to pay permanent maintenance will continue to do so until the spouse receiving the spousal support remarries (or cohabitates with another) or dies. Permanent maintenance can also end if the court order finalizing the divorce places an ending date for the payments.

How Is Spousal Maintenance Calculated?

Since there are two types of maintenance, there are also two methods for calculation. For temporary maintenance, the court will use a special formula. It’s not the simplest of formulas, but there’s very little wiggle room for a court to adjust what’s required. However, in limited situations, a court may decide that the formula requires a payment amount that is inappropriate or unfair, and adjust the amount of the temporary maintenance award.

As for permanent maintenance, there is no fixed formula, so calculating permanent maintenance is much more difficult. A court will look at 20 factors to determine how to calculate alimony payment amounts and how long those payments should continue. These 20 factors are:

  1. The income and assets of each spouse
  2. How long the marriage lasted
  3. The health and age of each spouse
  4. The earning capacities of each spouse
  5. Whether a spouse will need to obtain education or training in order to become financially independent
  6. How long couples lived together before marriage or lived apart before the divorce
  7. Whether one spouse did anything to restrict the other spouse’s ability to find gainful employment
  8. The ability of a dependent spouse to become financially independent and how long that might take
  9. Any future loss of earning ability due to a spouse having foregone professional or educational development
  10. Which spouse will be taking care of the children
  11. Whether there is a need for one spouse to take care of other family members
  12. A spouse’s inability to find gainful employment due to being out of the workforce for an extended period of time
  13. The need to pay for exceptional expenses for children
  14. Tax considerations for each spouse
  15. How marital property will be distributed
  16. The nonmonetary contributions of each spouse made during the marriage
  17. Any financial waste by a spouse
  18. Financial transactions made by a spouse that occurred right before a divorce
  19. Loss of health insurance benefits as a result of the divorce
  20. Any other factors the court deems just and proper

Theoretically, there can be an unlimited number of factors since the 20th factor is a “catch all” that allows the court to consider almost anything else that might be relevant.

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Can the Couple Make Their Own Agreement about Spousal Support?

Of course. If a couple makes an agreement before their marriage, it is known as a prenuptial agreement. If the agreement is made during the marriage, it’s called a postnuptial agreement. And if the agreement is made during the divorce, it’s usually called a stipulation of settlement.

Can the Couple Adjust Their Maintenance Award?

Donna HaslingerYes, but they will need the court to do so. A court will only agree to modify the maintenance award if there is a “substantial change in circumstances.” The typical example of a substantial change in circumstances is where the party paying spousal support loses his or her job.

However, courts will be wary of individuals who try to avoid paying spousal support by deliberately making less income. If the court believes this is happening, it will base the individual’s spousal support payments on what that individual could potentially earn, rather than what they actually earn.

Have More Questions about Spousal Support? Contact Us

If you’re going through a divorce and face the possibility of either paying spousal support or receiving spousal support payments, don’t hesitate to contact our divorce lawyers in Buffalo NY with any questions. You may use our website or call the number above.

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