In a New York divorce, there is spousal support or “temporary maintenance” and then there is maintenance. Spousal support is money that a higher-earning spouse pays to the lower-earning spouse while they are still married and their divorce action is pending in the courts.

On the other hand, once a couple is officially divorced, that financial support is no longer referred to as spousal support, instead it’s called “maintenance,” which is the money paid after a divorce is finalized.

In other words, “maintenance” is the money that an ex-spouse pays their ex-husband or wife after the divorce is official. Sometimes this is called alimony, sometimes it’s called spousal maintenance. Is it safe to assume that spousal support and alimony are always awarded in a New York divorce? No, spousal support and maintenance are not guaranteed in a New York divorce.

Marital Settlement Agreements

If the couple is of high-net worth, the spouses can agree on a spousal support and/or maintenance arrangement, which would be incorporated into their marital settlement agreement. Of course, you don’t have to be a high-net worth couple to have a divorce that involves spousal support and maintenance, but it is more likely when a wealthy couple divorces.

What if a spouse refuses to pay spousal support and/or maintenance? If the higher-earning spouse will not voluntarily agree to pay spousal support and/or maintenance, but the lower-earning spouse wants it, then the spouse who is asking for support can petition the court for spousal support while the divorce is pending and maintenance once the divorce is finalized.

Is spousal support always awarded in a New York divorce?

Even if a spouse asks the court for spousal support and maintenance, that does not mean that he or she will receive it. Spousal support and maintenance are awarded on a case-by-case, as-needed basis.

When deciding whether or not to award spousal support and/or maintenance, the court will carefully review the couple’s financial situation, among other relevant factors, such as:

  • The age and health of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s income and assets
  • The lower-earning spouse’s need for support
  • The higher-earning spouse’s ability to pay support
  • Which spouse will have the children most of the time
  • The lower-earning spouse’s contributions as a homemaker or stay-at-home parent
  • The employability of the lower-earning spouse
  • If the lower-earning spouse needs to go back to school to reinforce their job skills
  • Anything else the court deems relevant

When people are legally married to each other in New York, they are expected to financially support each other. This means that either an ex-husband or an ex-wife can ask for financial support from their ex-spouse.

A soon-to-be ex-spouse has every right to ask for support and/or maintenance, even if they are working full-time, as long as they really need it and their spouse can afford to pay it. If a judge orders support and maintenance, usually he or she will set an end date, but not always.

Even if a judge does not set an end date for maintenance, that does not mean that it cannot end. If there is a significant change in circumstances, the maintenance may be lowered or terminated at a future date.

If you are interested in learning more about spousal support and maintenance in New York, contact Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C. to speak with an experienced divorce attorney.