Spousal Support Agreements

What You Should Know About New York Laws

Spousal support is long- or short-term payment from an independent spouse to a dependent spouse as a result of a divorce or a legal separation. Family court has the power to award spousal support between spouses who live apart, but have not filed actions for divorce or separation. Spousal support awarded in actions for divorce or separation is also known as "maintenance" in the state of New York. This form of monetary payment covers the dependent spouse's daily needs, which may include: shelter, food, clothing, and medical expenses.

Why Is One Spouse Obligated to Pay?

When two people get married, they establish a way of living. If the people divorce after this standard of living is established, the law seeks to help the dependent spouse maintain that way of living through spousal support. Spousal support should provide sufficient income for the dependent spouse to live within such the established marital means until the dependent spouse is able to support him or herself.

In New York, there are two types of spousal support that may be awarded by the court. In all spousal support cases, the judge must use discretion when making an award decision. In determining maintenance the judge will consider the non-dependent spouse's ability to pay, as well as other factors considered in awarding equitable distributions.

The two types of spousal support are:

  • Permanent support is payment for daily needs such as food, shelter, clothing, insurance, and medical expenses. Before a spouse can be awarded permanent support, he / she must prove that they are in need of it. Once permanent support is awarded, the independent spouse must make payments indefinitely, or until a change of circumstances occurs.
  • Rehabilitative support is temporary payment that allows the dependent spouse to develop his / her vocational skills. Rehabilitative support is meant to help the dependent spouse return to a state of financial self-sufficiency.

Any award for spousal maintenance terminates upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the dependent spouse.

How is Post-Divorce Spousal Support Determined?

The amount of spousal support that one spouse may owe to another is determined as a percentage of their income. Courts do not use a fixed formula to determine how much support is appropriate, but do take some of the following criteria into account:

  • Present and future income of both spouses
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The ability of the dependent spouse to eventually become self-supporting
  • The dependent spouse’s earning capacity
  • Loss of income, medical insurance, and other benefits after the divorce
  • Age and health of both spouses
  • Whether there are children, disabled children, in-laws, or elderly that also require care
  • Any non-monetary contributions to the marriage made by the receiving spouse

This list does not include everything that a judge may consider. The court will look at any details that they feel are relevant to a decision about how much spousal maintenance to award. Maintenance awards can be either “durational,” meaning that they must be paid for a determined period of time, or “non-durational,” in which they must be paid for the lifetime of the dependent. While rare, this may apply to cases where the dependent may not be able to support themselves in the future; for example, if they are older, have an illness, or are otherwise unlikely to find employment.

Long Island Attorneys for Spousal Support

If you are going through a divorce or separation, it is important that you speak with a skilled matrimonial law attorney as soon as possible. At Wisselman & Associates, we can explain the laws pertaining to spousal support, inform you of your legal options, challenge spousal support terms in court, and protect your individual rights.

Schedule your complimentary case consultation when you call our firm today.

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