Not every divorce involves a request for spousal support, commonly known as alimony. But when spousal support is a factor, it could become a major point of contention. A lot of money and the financial stability of at least one of the spouses could be at stake.

For the spouse requesting alimony, the funds could give him or her the chance to restart his or her career, or allow him or her to live comfortably after years relying on the other spouse for income. For the other souse, alimony could represent an unfair and onerous financial burden.

As with other divorce matters, information in power, and knowing how spousal maintenance is awarded or denied can help you prevail, or at least reach an acceptable settlement.

In New York, the purpose of spousal support is to enable the spouse requesting it to continue the same standard of living he or she experienced during the marriage. The spouses can include alimony as part of their divorce settlement, if they reach one, or the judge can award it in court.

Even before the divorce is finalized, a spouse with little income may be able to get temporary maintenance that lasts during the divorce proceedings.

Changes to the law in recent years created a presumption that a spouse is entitled to spousal support when his or her income is less than two-thirds the income the spouse makes. But the amount of alimony, and how long it will last, depends on several factors, including the length of the marriage. A marriage of more than 25 years could entitle one spouse to lifetime maintenance.

For more information, consult with your divorce attorney.