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In New York, spousal support in divorce is more often being paid by women than ever before. While headlines about the gender pay gap still abound, it is also true that women are beginning to see higher wages and higher earning jobs than in previous years. In fact, statistics from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics report that 37% of women in heterosexual marriages in America earn more than their husbands. Studies also showed that 3% of alimony recipients in the United States are men. Further, there are now more stay-at-home dads in the United States — approximately 1.9 million of them. Because the disparity in income between men and women has been steadily on the decline, women are becoming more likely to be the spouse that pays spousal support to their former husbands.

What Is Spousal Support / Alimony / Maintenance?

Spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance and as alimony, is awarded by Long Island courts and requires one spouse to make payments to another for a period of time after the divorce. The court has discretion about how much and for how long spousal support will be paid. Temporary maintenance is often awarded while the divorce is pending, and in some cases permanent alimony can also be awarded.

How Is Spousal Support / Alimony Determined on Long Island?

Spousal support is determined by economic considerations, such as whether the lower earning spouse can support him or herself, or whether they would be forced to seek public assistance from the state. The calculation also involves the length of the marriage as well as the education level and employment of the spouses. Where it appears that a spouse should be able to quickly get on his or her feet and return to work and earn a sufficient income, spousal support payments will likely end. Unlike other states, New York generally does not award permanent alimony except in certain cases, such as if a spouse is retired or disabled and unable to support themselves at all.

‘Fault’ Plays No Role in Determining Support / Alimony

New York is a state that has no-fault divorce laws, meaning that fault is not considered in deciding who gets what in divorce. Some believe that this makes the payment of alimony unfair, particularly in cases where the payee spouse (the spouse receiving spousal support payments) was the one who initiated the breakup or cheated on the paying spouse. There is a list of factors used to assess the spouses’ ability to pay or the need to be paid, but it is important to understand that it is primarily economic factors that are taken into consideration when determining the spousal support award.

For example, a New York court is likely to award spousal support payments to a spouse who gave up his or her career to be a stay-at-home parent. While this effort is clearly a contribution to the household, the spouse may have more difficulty reentering the workforce upon divorcing. Factors such as giving up a career to care for the children, reliance on the former spouse’s health insurance, and property received as a result of equitable distribution will all be considered.

Spousal Support Can Be Modified if Circumstances Change

A change in financial status of the ex-spouse, for example if they get a higher paying job or become married to someone with an income that can support them, can often get the spouse who is paying spousal support off the hook. Because the spousal support payments are based on financial circumstances, take a look at changes in your and your ex-spouse’s living situations that might call for a change in the spousal support arrangement. Talk to an experienced divorce attorney about whether this is a possibility in your case.

With rights to higher wages and social equality comes the increased responsibility of legal obligations to your former spouse. Whether the arrangements seem fair to you or not, your responsibility to your ex-spouse can last even after the marriage has ended.

Questions about Spousal Support?
Contact an Experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney

If you have questions about your obligation to pay or receive spousal support, you need the advice of an experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney to help you understand your rights and obligations under New York law. The divorce law firm of Robert E. Hornberger, Esq. serves Nassau County, Suffolk County, and the five boroughs of New York City with accomplished divorce lawyers and family law attorneys who can answer your questions and provide thoughtful and compassionate advice for what strategy you might take. Contact our office today at 631-923-1910 to set up your free initial consultation today.

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