Alimony in New York: Your Complete Guide (Recommended)

Navigating the waters of divorce brings about lots of financial and emotional turmoil. You and your spouse may not see eye to eye when it comes to dividing the marital assets, deciding who gets the house and determining the amount of the child support payments.

Before the process is complete, there are a lot of odds and ends that the two of you will need to sort through. However, the waters become even murkier when you add alimony into the mix.

Alimony can transform an amicable divorce into an acrimonious litigation that destroys your amenable friendship. One spouse often feels entitled to financial support because he or she has sacrificed a great deal in the relationship. Meanwhile, the other spouse would prefer to keep all of his or her hard-earned money in-pocket. When it comes to alimony payments in New York, which spouse is in the right?

This subject can be a difficult one to tackle, because it holds a lot of subtle nuances about who is entitled to alimony in New York. You are far better off if you arrive at the litigation or negotiations armed with all the knowledge you need. To find out everything you need to know about alimony in New York, take a look at this handy guide.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is a financial payment that one spouse makes to another after a divorce has been finalized. You may also hear it referred to as spousal support or maintenance. The funds are intended to help a disadvantaged spouse maintain the same standard of living that the couple had when they were married.

There are several different scenarios that may have caused one spouse to need this financial support, including a lack of employable skills or poor physical health.

These payments are sometimes issued before the finalization of the divorce. Alimony payments issued during the proceedings are called pendente lite payments (temporary alimony). Pendente lite payments end when the divorce becomes finalized, or a judge can order that they become permanent alimony.

Alimony isn’t always issued on a permanent basis. Sometimes, a court finds that a disadvantaged spouse only needs financial support after he or she returns to school for more training. In such cases, spouses will be granted spousal support to give them financial breathing room until they have the skills and training necessary to obtain well-paying jobs.

However, these payments can end once they obtain a career that can make them self-sufficient, instead of dependent on their former spouse.

Who Qualifies for Alimony?

The courts will have to take a closer look at the couple’s status before they can determine whether alimony payments are justified. Unfortunately, there are no set formulas for calculating alimony in New York.

A judge will have to use a list of common factors to determine who is eligible, and who is in desperate need of these funds. Here are just a few of the criteria that judges use when considering an alimony case:

Assets and Properties of Both Spouses

The first thing that a judge will look at is how much property and how many assets each spouse will individually have after the split is final. That property might be able to generate an income, or you might have a rather large savings account. Either way, those funds could negate one spouse’s need for alimony payments on an ongoing basis.

This assessment will also apply to individual property that was brought into the marriage.

Income and Potential Income of Both Spouses

Unless you take a closer look at the overall income of both spouses, it is difficult to determine the financial need for alimony. A judge should consider both the present income, and any potential pay raises that occur over the next few years.

This consideration also includes looking at whether a spouse is truly making their earning potential, or if they are purposely limiting their income to avoid paying alimony.

Alternatively, the judge might determine that one spouse does not have the skills or training to pursue a well-paying position without further schooling. This situation is often relevant to stay-at-home parents who sacrifice their own careers for their spouses’ career aspirations.

When one spouse lacks the ability to be self-supporting, the judge might order maintenance payments until he or she can receive further training for more marketable skills.

Age and Health of Both Spouses

The age of both spouses will be taken into consideration when making a decision about alimony. One spouse may be too advanced in years to be reasonably expected to return to school and learn a new skill. Similarly, the health of both spouses will play a role.

A disabled spouse cannot be expected to maintain a full-time income if he or she has always been financially supported by his or her partner.

Length of the Marriage

Judges are unlikely to order alimony payments if a marriage is rather short. They generally do not consider issuing alimony payments unless a marriage lasts for ten years or more. However, they will issue them for some shorter marriages, if the situation calls for it.

Children from the Marriage

The cost of caring for children from the marriage may also be taken into consideration.

Child support payments may take up the only spare income that the paying spouse could possibly have. If they do not, the parent who cares for them full-time may have the potential for alimony.

Nevertheless, the ability to work while caring for the children or paying for childcare might not balance out, so the spouse could require alimony payments to uphold a normal standard of living.

Loss of Benefits

Another major issue that a judge will consider when looking at a divorce case is whether one spouse has lost significant benefits, such as health insurance. This issue could play some role in whether the judge orders alimony payments.

Marital Misconduct

A judge will heavily consider the way that each spouse acted prior to the divorce, and throughout the duration of the marriage. Marital misconduct will be reviewed, which includes adultery, drug use, and domestic violence. If any of these situations apply to your marriage and divorce, you should seek counseling, in order to come to terms with the situation.

The help of a professional can give you the peace and healing you need to calmly speak about these situations with the judge in court. Receiving your alimony payment could be dependent upon your ability to do so.

While the factors listed are a few of the most prevalent ones that judges use for alimony decisions, the court can use any information that it views as relevant when making a final judgment. Make sure that you have documentation for all of the above items, so that you are prepared for the alimony conversation when you head to court.

How Is Temporary Alimony Calculated?

While permanent alimony is subject to the court’s discretion, temporary alimony has a set formula. This calculation makes it much easier for couples to determine what their projected temporary alimony payments are going to be.

There are two general ways that alimony can be calculated, both using the incomes of both spouses:

  • Subtract 20 percent of the receiving spouse’s income from 30 percent of the paying spouse’s income.
  • Multiply both incomes by 40 percent. Then subtract the receiving spouse’s number from the paying spouse’s number.

The court will examine both numbers, then select the lower number for the annual pendente lite payments. Then you can get a much clearer idea of what your projected alimony payments will be, while you sort through the emotional and financial baggage of your divorce.

Keep in mind that the court has the right to deviate from these formulas if they do not believe that the amount is fair and appropriate. In these cases, they will consider some of the other factors that are used for permanent alimony.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

Everyone wants to know how long alimony payments are supposed to last in the state of New York. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this dilemma, because every couple will have a unique answer. Some spouses receive permanent maintenance, while others may only be scheduled to receive it for a brief period of time.

Short-term alimony is sometimes referred to as durational alimony. This type of payment is usually offered to spouses who must return to school, in order to become more self-supporting throughout the years.

The judge will make a determination about how long it should take for them to finish school and become more self-sufficient without the alimony payments. At this point, the spousal support will end, and spouses will be able to financially take care of themselves without the assistance of their partners.

There are a few general guidelines for how long alimony payments are likely to last following a divorce. Most of them are based on how long you have been married:

  • Up to 15 years: 15 to 30 percent of the time you were married
  • Between 15 years and 20 years: 30 to 40 percent of the time you were married
  • More than 20 years: 35 to 50 percent of the total time you were married

In other situations, one spouse is ordered to pay permanent alimony throughout a spouse’s entire lifetime. This situation is sometimes referred to as non-durational maintenance. Keep in mind that this type of alimony payment is relatively rare. You often only see in relationships that involve one spouse that is relatively old, disabled, or extremely unlikely to find a new position that would allow him or her to be self-supporting.

Alimony will end whenever the receiving spouse remarries or begins cohabitating with a new romantic partner. Therefore, it is always a good idea to keep in touch with your former spouse and your mutual friends. You may uncover information that would lead to the end of your alimony payments.

In addition, alimony will end any time either spouse passes away.

Being Prepared for the Alimony Battle

Discussing alimony with your spouse is never an easy topic. It can quickly become hostile and aggressive when your court date rolls around. Make sure that you are taking time to remain calm, so that you can clearly think about what you need to do.

Arm yourself with all of the knowledge you need to enter into your alimony battle fully prepared. Then you will have the greatest possibility of emerging with a favorable outcome that will leave you financially stable for the years ahead.

Remember that your financial future is at stake here. You need to set the emotional aspect of your divorce aside for a moment, in order to deal with what is most important. When you have all of the information you need about alimony in New York, you can feel confident when you enter the courtroom. Preparation is the key to setting the stage for your bright financial future.

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