Spousal Maintenance, sometimes referred to as Alimony, are payments made to the lesser income-earning spouse by the higher income-earning spouse, to ensure that both spouses are properly taken care of during the pendency of and after a divorce proceeding in Nassau County or Suffolk County, Long Island, NY. Therefore, a Spousal Maintenance Award ordered during the pendency of the case can differ from one ordered at the entry of the Final Judgment of Divorce. Spousal maintenance might be temporary and may be paid during the pendency of a divorce, or might be ordered to continue post-divorce.
Is Spousal Maintenance the Same Thing as Spousal Support?
You will likely be surprised to find that Spousal Maintenance is not in fact the same thing as Spousal Support. Spousal Support, as opposed to Spousal Maintenance, is awarded to the lower income earning spouse during the course of the marriage. This can be done by filing a petition in the Family Court in Nassau County or Suffolk County (depending upon where you reside) or can be agreed upon in a Separation Agreement which will be filed with the court and entered as a Judgment of Separation. However, Spousal Support will always terminate when a Judgment of Divorce is entered, so if you and your spouse are planning to convert the Judgment of Separation into a Judgment of Divorce this factor is of importance to you when you create the Judgment of Separation.
What is Temporary Spousal Maintenance & How is it Calculated?
Temporary Spousal Maintenance is spousal maintenance which is awarded during the pendency of your Long Island Divorce. The Nassau County or Suffolk County Court will follow the temporary support calculator, which sets forth a precise formula to be used when determining the award. The Court will do two (2) calculations to determine the proper amount of Temporary Spousal Maintenance.
First, twenty percent (20%) of the payee spouse’s income will be subtracted from thirty percent (30%) of the payor spouse’s income.
Then, the payee spouse’s income will be subtracted from forty percent (40%) of the total combined spousal income. Keep in mind that Child Support Payments will be added to the income of the payee spouse and deducted from the income of the payor spouse.
Finally, the payee spouse will be awarded Spousal Maintenance based upon the lower of the two above calculations. However, the Court is not bound by this formula, and if it determines the award is too high or too low it can deviate from the guidelines and award an amount it deems appropriate.
Temporary Spousal Maintenance awards are just that – temporary. Accordingly, they will terminate upon the entry of the Final Judgment of Divorce. During the pendency of the proceeding, the purpose of these payments is to allow the payee spouse to continue making all payments he or she had been prior to the commencement of the action for divorce, including health insurance and carrying charges on the marital residence.
Post-Divorce Spousal Maintenance on Long Island
Calculating a Post-Divorce Spousal Maintenance award is based upon factors directly relating to the marriage and not simply a numeric formula. Under New York’s Domestic Relations Law, Nassau County and Suffolk County Courts are required to look at the parties’ pre-separation standard of living along with other factors including, among other things:
- The length of the marriage
- The age and health of both parties
- The ability of the payee spouse to become self-supporting
- Whether the actions of one spouse inhibited the other from obtaining an education or valuable employment during the course of the marriage
- Whether one spouse wasted marital assets to the detriment of the other spouse.
The statute also provides the Court with a “catch-all” factor: anything else the Court may deem just and proper. This factor makes an award of spousal maintenance fact-specific and permits the Court to inquire into the individual circumstances of your marriage.
There is no formula for determining the duration of a spousal maintenance award. While many attorneys and prospective clients believe that the length of a maintenance award should be one-third the length of the marriage, the court will consider the same factors for duration that it will for the amount. In determining the length of a spousal maintenance award, the court will consider the amount of any temporary spousal maintenance awards paid. Additionally, a Court may award Lifetime Maintenance in extreme cases. An award of Lifetime Maintenance will terminate on the death or remarriage of the payee spouse.
Courts Can Use Discretion to Change the Formula
Courts are not bound by this formula, and if it determines the award is too high or too low it can deviate from the guidelines and award the amount it deems appropriate. Further, if the payor spouse’s income is above $178,000, the court will nevertheless use a maximum of $178,000 to calculate the amount of support, but can deviate from this formula if it determines it to be necessary.
What if I Also Have to Pay Child Support?
To provide the spouse who is responsible for both child support and spousal maintenance a break from the full demands of paying both spousal maintenance and child support the courts use a slightly different formula.
- The first formula uses 25% of the payee’s income will be subtracted from 20% of the payor’s income.
- The second calculation is as follows: the sum of the payor’s income and the payee’s income will be multiplied by 40%, and the payee’s income will be subtracted from the result.
- The payee spouse will be awarded the lower of the two amounts.
- If the payor spouse’s income is above $178,000, the court will plus a maximum of $178,000 into this formula, but can deviate from the formula if it deems necessary.
What About Post-Divorce Maintenance? How Much Will I Get or Have To Pay & for How Long?
Post-Divorce Spousal Maintenance are the regular payments awarded to be paid to one spouse by another for a specified period of time. The calculation of a post-divorce spousal maintenance award is based upon all the same formulas as the temporary maintenance standard. Like the temporary maintenance formula, it takes into account whether the payor spouse is also paying child support, and adjusts the maintenance amount accordingly. It also factors in a maximum of $178,000 for income.
The duration of post-divorce maintenance is calculated with another formula based on the length of the marriage.
- For marriages that lasted up to and including 15 years, maintenance is awarded for 15% to 30% of the length of the marriage.
- For marriages that lasted for more than 15 years up to and including 20 years, maintenance is awarded for 30% to 40% of the length of the marriage.
- For marriages which lasted more than 20 years, the duration of the award is 35% to 50% of the length of the marriage.
Long Island Courts Have Discretion to Change the Formula
However, it is important to remember that courts on Long Island have discretion to adjust the duration, or award non-durational maintenance in appropriate cases. The court can consider any factors that it deems relevant and justified in your situation in order to make this determination.
Can I Modify My Spousal Maintenance Order?
Yes, if there is a substantial change in circumstances. For example, if the payor spouse lost his/her job, experienced a pay cut, or had a sudden illness, or if the receiving spouse is cohabitating in a new relationship, gets remarried, or became self-supporting, the court may decide to change the award.
Remember that maintenance payments terminate upon the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the payee (recipient) spouse.
Can My Spouse and I Enter Into an Agreement on Our Own?
Most Nassau County and Suffolk County divorce proceedings settle with little to no court intervention. This serves to save both spouses time and money, as well as eliminate the stress of having to see your spouse in court and testify during the litigation process. If your goal is to settle your divorce with your spouse, Spousal Maintenance is an important topic which should be discussed.
Do not be afraid to bring up the topic of Spousal Maintenance during settlement discussions with your spouse and their divorce attorney. Long Island couples can agree to a maintenance award of a certain amount for a set term of years, or you can agree to a maintenance award for one amount until the happening of an event upon which the maintenance award will increase or decrease for a certain amount of years. Either way, if you agree upon your maintenance obligation rather than have it imposed by a Nassau County or Suffolk County Court, both you and your spouse will be happier in the long run due to the reduced amount of stress.
Agreements setting forth Spousal Maintenance payments generally include a clause setting forth what are known as “termination events.” The name is pretty self-explanatory: the payor spouse’s maintenance obligation will terminate upon the happening of any of the events listed. Most commonly included are the death of either party and the remarriage of the payee spouse. A third termination which has become more prevalent is the payee spouse’s residing with an unrelated adult individual for a certain period of time. Some agreements set a thirty (30) day time period while some set a sixty (60) day time period. Additionally, some agreements limit the residence to a person with whom the payee spouse is involved in a romantic relationship, while others specifically state the maintenance payments will terminate whether or not the payee spouse is involved in a romantic relationship with the individual he or she currently resides with.
Agreements relating to Spousal Maintenance prior to going before a judge in Nassau County or Suffolk County Court are also beneficial because they can set parameters on the payor spouse’s income, such as stating that a maintenance obligation will never be predicated on an income of less than $150,000, or if the income of the payor spouse decreases by more than $20,000 the parties will agree to an adjusted amount of maintenance. Therefore, if you can attempt to settle this issue with your spouse prior to going to court, you will find entering into an agreement on your own accord will have many benefits, both financial and emotional.
Need Help with Setting Up a Spousal Maintenance Agreement? Talk to a Long Island Divorce Lawyer
To learn more about what you need to know about spousal maintenance (alimony) on Long Island and how to get help to protect yourself and your future visit this page: Spousal Maintenance / Alimony on Long Island, NY. An experienced, compassionate divorce Lawyer Long Island’s Robert E. Hornberger Esq., PC and his team have helped many couples in Nassau County and Suffolk County develop Spousal Maintenance Agreements that work for both parties in Separation or Divorce Agreements. If you need help, please contact us at 631-923-1910 or fill out the short form on this page for a free consultation.
“From the moment I contacted Mr. Hornberger I knew I was in good hands. He was easy to speak with, paid close attention to all my MANY questions and reassured me that he could handle my divorce case. Since the 1st phone call, I was sure I wanted Mr. Hornberger to represent me in what I knew would be a very difficult divorce. He DID NOT disappoint! When I thought I would lose everything, with Mr. Hornberger fighting for me, I was able to have custody of my children, stay in the family home and receive child support. As far as divorce attorneys go….. Mr. Hornberger is the RIGHT choice!!!!”
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Your attorney will describe the many options available and determine together which is the right solution for you. By the end of this conversation, we’ll all understand how we can best help you to move forward.
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There is no cost or obligation for this initial consultation. It is simply an opportunity for us to get to know each other, answer your questions and learn if Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. is right the right law firm for you. Give us a call at 631-923-1910 or fill in the short form below for your free consultation and case evaluation.
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