In the state of New York, you may hear the terms “spousal maintenance” and “alimony” used to describe spousal support, though the first is the legal term used in the courts. The purpose of this monetary support is to help the spouse requesting the funds to become financially independent once your divorce is finalized. These orders are sometimes necessary because a spouse may not have the job skills or training to financially support themselves. How much you may receive or pay, and the length of time this award lasts, depends on several factors discussed further below.

How is Spousal Support Calculated?

To calculate spousal maintenance, New York law provides guidance to calculate the amount and length of the support order. Judges rarely deviate from this standard unless the calculation result would be unfair or inappropriate for the situation.

The majority of cases will use one of two predetermined formulas:

Cases with Child Support Orders and The Payor Is the Non-Custodial Parent:

25% of the payor’s net income annually subtracted from 20% of the payee’s net annual income, the sum of which is multiplied by 40% and then has the payee’s income subtracted from this total

Cases without A Child Support Order or Where the Payor Is the Custodial Parent:

20% of the payor’s net income annually subtracted from 30% of the payee’s net annual income, the sum of which is multiplied by 40% and then has the payee’s income subtracted from this total

The court will use the lowest number of their calculations as the baseline for support and then divide it by the expected frequency of payments. So if it were to be a monthly payment, the court would divide the initial finding by 12 to determine how frequently the spouse receives funds. If you have questions regarding this process, working with a knowledgeable New York divorce lawyer will prove to be an invaluable resource of information and guidance throughout your support proceeding.

Income Caps and Determining New York Spousal Maintenance

New York law does put a cap on the amount of income to be subject to these formulas. As of 2019, the maximum annual net income amount was $192,000. If you exceed this amount, a judge can consider over fifteen additional factors for the excess amount and order a higher spousal maintenance award.

Some of the factors that could be at play in this situation include:

  • Age and health of the spouse requesting support
  • The spouse’s ability to earn income now and in the future
  • What living standards existed during the marriage
  • Tax consequences
  • Wasteful use of marital assets by the payor

What is the Duration of Spousal Maintenance/Alimony?

Another aspect of spousal maintenance is the length of time the order will last. If you or your spouse need to undergo extensive education and training to gain a self-supporting level of earning capacity, a durational order could span a year or more.

The below guidelines are a baseline that many New York divorce courts use to determine the duration of spousal maintenance:

  • 15%-30% of the marriage length for those that lasted up to 15 years
  • 30% – 40% of the marriage length for those that lasted from 15 to 20 years
  • 35% – 50% of the marriage length for those that lasted over 20 years

Non-durational alimony is a permanent order for the support of a spouse. This may be due to ongoing health conditions that make it impossible for them to work. These orders can come to an end under specific circumstances:

  • One of the spouses die
  • The supported spouse remarries
  • The supported spouse lives with a partner they represent as a spouse

There are occasions where a spouse can pay a one-time lump sum to the other needing support. This is convenient for the receiving spouse because they will not have to wait for a disbursement every month.

New York Spousal Maintenance Tax Consequences

Remember this important note regarding spousal maintenance and taxes. Under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, alimony orders issued after January 1, 2019, cannot be used as a tax deduction by the payor, nor are these monies required to be reported as income by the recipient. Orders issued before December 31, 2018, are not affected by this new law, and parties can still apply necessary deductions or claim as income on their annual taxes.

Changes in Your Circumstances Can Impact Spousal Maintenance

Much like New York child support orders, divorced parties have the lawful right to modify their spousal maintenance orders if there is a substantial change in their circumstances. Reasons could include the recipient not needing the initial level of support any longer or a spouse asking for additional money because the payor’s income can now afford it.

If you pay a spousal maintenance order and have suffered an involuntary change in your job, income, or ability to work, it is vital to speak with a skillful divorce lawyer with experience in support awards. Keep in mind that if you want to quit your lucrative sales job for a lower-paying clerk position, your income will be subject to imputation by the court. This means that your now lower wages get considered, and the judge will also consider what you would have made had you not opted to leave the higher-earning sales job.

Rely on The Law Offices of Katherine Ryan, P.C. to Represent Your Spousal Maintenance Issue

Whether you need spousal maintenance, or you are concerned about the impact of making such payments to your ex-partner after your divorce, understanding how New York courts determine the amount paid and length of these payments is crucial. At The Law Office of Katherine Ryan, P.C., we understand the complicated nature of alimony/spousal support proceedings and can help you navigate this process to help the court make a fair decision that benefits your best interests.

As a recognized Super Lawyer in 2020, Attorney Kate Ryan uses her years of experience helping clients reach a fair and equitable resolution in complex financial matters like spousal maintenance and child support. Her extensive knowledge and skilled litigation technique can bring significant benefit when presenting your case to the court.

Our firm provides family law services to clients in Garden City, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County, and Long Island. Contact The Law Office of Katherine Ryan, P.C. today for a comprehensive evaluation of your family law issue.