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Posted on May 1, 2023

What is Spousal Support?

A marriage is a financial relationship as much as it is an emotional one. Spouses are expected to support each other financially while they are together. When a couple goes through a divorce, this relationship is also severed. When one spouse in a divorce is at a financial disadvantage, spousal support can be a way to allow them to get back on their feet with the help of their ex-spouse.

As is often the case in a divorce, deciding on matters such as whether to request spousal support or when one avoids alimony can become contentious when emotions are running high. Getting the help of a New York attorney who can protect your best interests is crucial. At the Law Office of Richard Roman Shum, experienced New York spousal support attorney Richard Shum has dedicated his practice to providing individuals with skilled legal advice in navigating divorce. Call us today at (646) 259-3416 to schedule a free consultation.

The Purpose of Spousal Support

Spousal support or alimony is financial assistance one spouse pays to the other even after their marriage is terminated. It is meant to tide over any difficulties a financially dependent spouse may encounter while transitioning from a two-income to a one-income household. 

Spousal support has little to do with gender roles and everything to do with each spouse’s financial security after the divorce. Spousal support is also seen as a way to help spouses who worked in the home or postponed their careers to look after their family to look for a job that can support their existing standard of living.

As a no-fault divorce state, it is not necessary for a divorce to have fault-based grounds before a spouse can be awarded spousal support.

New York spousal support attorney

How is Spousal Support Calculated?

The calculation of spousal support in New York courts differs based on the presence or absence of child support. If the non-custodial parent is responsible for both child and spousal support, the payment amount is determined by deducting 25% of the payee’s income from 20% of the payor’s income. For example, if the payor earns $100,000 per year and the payee earns $50,000 per year, the spousal support would be $7,500 per year or $625 per month.

On the other hand, if child support is not involved or the custodial parent is providing spousal support, the payment amount is calculated by subtracting 20% of the payee’s income from 30% of the payor’s income. In the previous example, the spousal support would be $20,000 per year.

There are restrictions on spousal support amounts based on the couple’s combined income. The calculation involves subtracting the payee’s income from 40% of the couple’s joint income. If the result is less than the spousal support calculated earlier, the payee will receive the lower amount. In the previous example, the maximum spousal support would be $10,000 per year (or $833.33 monthly payments) when child support is not involved.

In New York, spousal support must be calculated before determining child support payments to ensure that parents’ incomes accurately represent their monthly financial resources. If spousal support obligations reduce an individual’s income below the annual “self-support reserve” amount (which was $18,347 in 2022), payment amounts may be lowered accordingly. If the payor’s income exceeds the “income cap” (which was $203,000 in 2022), spousal support calculations only apply to income up to that limit. Judges have discretion over spousal support calculations for income exceeding the cap.

How is Spousal Support Awarded?

In New York, a couple who is divorcing may negotiate whether and how much spousal support is necessary. If they cannot reach an agreement, either spouse may file a spousal support petition in Family Court and seek the court’s intervention in deciding the matter of spousal support.

When seeking a divorce, each couple’s financial records are submitted to the court. This information will be used in determining how much spousal support can be given. Spousal support payments can be a significant financial concern for the payor spouse. While no one gets into a marriage expecting a divorce, it is reasonable to speak about it with your spouse in advance or create legal safeguards that can protect you and your spouse from future issues.

Spousal support can be awarded before the divorce is finalized and is usually given by the higher-earning spouse to the other. Temporary spousal support ends once the court has decided upon terms of spousal maintenance, usually when the divorce proceedings conclude.

Spousal support payments are different from child support. You can receive alimony even if you do not have a child with your ex-spouse, but the amount you will receive from your spouse if they are also paying for child support may be less.

The court uses baseline guidelines on how much spousal support, or maintenance, must be awarded but will factor in considerations such as the following:

  • Each spouse’s income
  • Any assets or property they own or received during the divorce
  • Each spouse’s health and age
  • Each spouse’s contributions to their household 
  • Any parental obligations that caused a spouse to postpone their career
  • Each spouse’s wage-earning capacity – any current or prior experience, academic achievements, etc.
  • How long a couple has been married

In cases of high-net-worth individuals, the court may order a deviation in the spousal support computation. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements will also be honored if a couple has previously discussed and agreed upon the subject of spousal support.

Spousal maintenance refers to post-divorce financial support a financially disadvantaged individual will receive from their ex-spouse. It can either be durational or non-durational. 

  • Non-durational alimony effectively lasts until the receiving spouse gets remarried, or either spouse passes away. 
  • Durational alimony lasts for a fixed amount of time depending on how long the couple has been married but may be terminated once the receiving spouse gets remarried or either spouse passes away.
Considerations for Spousal Support Description
Each spouse’s income The court considers the income of both spouses to determine how much support should be awarded.
Assets or property Any assets or property owned or received during the divorce are also considered in the computation of spousal support.
Health and age The health and age of each spouse are factors in deciding spousal support.
Contributions to household Contributions of each spouse to their household, including parenting obligations, are considered.
Wage-earning capacity The current or prior work experience, academic achievements, and wage-earning capacity of each spouse are taken into account.
Length of marriage The duration of the marriage is a significant factor in determining spousal support.
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements Spousal support agreements made through prenuptial or postnuptial agreements are honored if previously discussed and agreed upon.
Durational and Non-durational alimony Spousal maintenance can either be durational or non-durational, depending on the length of marriage and the receiving spouse’s ability to support themselves.

Non-durational alimony is often given in cases where the spouses have been married for a long time and one of the spouses has not established a career due to taking care of the family or supporting the other spouse’s career. Awarding of non-durational alimony depends on whether the financially dependent spouse still has the capacity to earn a wage and build a career to support themselves.

It is crucial to follow a spousal support order once it is given by the court. While it is understandable that the payor spouse may have some qualms about providing for their ex-spouse, especially if the divorce has been difficult, purposefully ignoring a spousal support order or engaging in fraudulent behavior to avoid paying spousal support can result in dire legal consequences. 

Before you make any decisions about alimony, it is important to consult with an experienced New York spousal support attorney who can walk you through the processes involved. An attorney can represent your interests in alimony negotiations and also help you enforce a spousal support order, if necessary.

At the Law Office of Richard Roman Shum, we understand the financial impact of divorce and offer quality legal counsel and representation to individuals going through this difficult time. We provide assistance in filing spousal support petitions, whether temporary or post-divorce and can also help in seeking spousal support order modifications. Our skilled New York spousal attorneys are ready to assist. Contact us today at (646) 259-3416 to schedule a free consultation or fill out our online form.

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