Spousal Maintenance in a New York Divorce


The financial aspects of a New York divorce can cause major concern for both spouses. In a marriage, both spouses have a legal obligation to support each other financially. After the marriage has ended, an award of spousal maintenance can help the lower earning spouse move toward gaining financial independence.


Spousal maintenance in New York is financial support that is paid to the dependent spouse, regardless of gender. It may be ordered in the final judgment of divorce for a fixed duration of time. It ceases upon remarriage or death of the payee. In addition, a court may order temporary support to be paid to the financially dependent spouse for the duration of the divorce proceedings, prior to the final judgment.


It should be noted that “spousal maintenance” may be used interchangeably with the term “alimony,” used by the IRS.


Factors Determining Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance can be awarded by the court for a set period of time, based on the length of the marriage. Under the New York Domestic Relations law, a court may consider certain factors in determining a just amount to be paid to the dependent spouse, including but not limited to:

  • Age and health of the parties

  • The present or future earning capacity of the parties

  • The need of one party to incur education or training expenses

  • Wasteful dissipation of marital property

  • Medical insurance costs

  • How caring for other dependent family members inhibits earning capacity

  • Acts of one spouse against the other to inhibit employment

  • Reduced or lost earning capacity as a result of delaying career opportunities during the marriage

  • Tax consequences to the parties

  • Standard of living during the marriage


Temporary Support

Temporary spousal support can be ordered to be paid to the dependent spouse, pendente lite, as the divorce proceedings are ongoing. Temporary support is terminated upon the judgment of divorce. However, spousal maintenance may be awarded in the final judgment.


Temporary support is based on a fixed formula and considers an income cap, based on statute, up to $184,000 (this income cap changes every two years). The calculation of the amount of support paid can vary if the payor is also paying child support concurrently.


If the income of the paying spouse is more than the statutory income cap, the court may consider factors concerning the parties’ living and financial situations to determine a fair amount.


Which Court Has Jurisdiction?

If a divorce proceeding has already been commenced, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to grant an award of temporary support. If the divorce action has not yet been commenced, a petition for spousal support may be brought in Family Court, concurrent with filing for child support.


Whether spousal maintenance is awarded depends on the specific circumstances of each case, and can be very complex. If you are considering divorce, it is best to consult with an attorney regarding your specific circumstances. In addition, tax implications concerning alimony payments have changed as of 2019. You should also consult with an accountant who can advise you how alimony will affect your specific financial situation.


The Law Office of Jessica M. Semins is available to handle divorce matters in New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island; Long Island, including Nassau and Suffolk counties; and Westchester. Call for a consultation (646) 397-6844. Consultations may be scheduled in Manhattan or Melville for the convenience of clients.


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Attorney Advertising.  The content contained herein is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor form an attorney-client relationship. (c) 2019 The Law Office of Jessica M. Semins, Jessica M. Semins, Esq.