Spousal maintenance, or alimony as many people call it, is often a contentious issue in New York divorces. It is simply the financial support paid to an ex-spouse after a divorce. This topic is complicated further because of the many misconceptions surrounding it.
Clearing up some of the common maintenance/alimony myths can help you get a better picture of what to expect. You should consult a seasoned attorney for personalized advice applicable to your situation because calculations tend to be heavily fact-specific.
Myth #1: Only women get alimony or maintenance
Support is not based on gender. Historically, women were more likely to request and receive support. This historical imbalance occurred because women in the past traditionally stayed home or, if they were employed, had less earning power than their husbands. Today, women have more opportunities and are more educated so the 1950's traditional stay-at-home mom with a working father seldom exists. In fact, many men are now stay-at-home fathers and their wives support the family. Regardless, either can get support when his or her situation matches the criteria.
Myth #2: Alimony or maintenance is forever
New York support guidelines limit duration, contrary to the popular image of alimony as a perpetual millstone around the higher earner's neck. Generally, support is paid for one-third of the marriage. This is subject to exceptions based on the age and health of the recipient. In addition, when the payor retires this usually results in a change or end of payments.
Myth #3: It is easy to figure out alimony using a calculator
In New York, courts must consider certain factors to determine if spousal maintenance will be awarded. The standard of living the parties enjoyed is a significant factor in determining how much support will be paid. New York has a maintenance (alimony) calculator and it is really an estimate of what a judge will decide.
Figuring out support can be a complicated process. The reasonableness of a particular amount depends on many factors, including costs of living, employability, child care obligations and more. To add yet another wrinkle, the tax consequences of alimony are set to change in 2019.
Whether or not you are the primary wage earner, couples need to understand maintenance following the divorce. Getting qualified legal help is the best way to formulate and work towards your goals and help both parties live happily ever after.