Oftentimes in divorce cases, one former spouse is ordered to pay the other alimony. Its duration and amount varies, however, since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all arrangement.
First Things First
Before we go into more detail about how long alimony lasts in New York, there are a few facts we should discuss.
Firstly, “alimony” is referred to as “spousal maintenance” in New York State.
Secondly, spousal maintenance isn’t always ordered by the Court. There are some instances in which neither spouse is required to pay the other anything.
Thirdly, there are several factors that play into how much spousal maintenance the supporting spouse pays the dependent spouse, including: both of their incomes, how long they were married, and the standard of living they are used to, among many others. These factors may also affect how long spousal maintenance will last in a particular case.
The length of a marriage is a primary consideration for the Court when determining spousal maintenance.
Dependent spouses who were married less than 10 years, for example, are likely to receive spousal maintenance for a shorter period of time compared to dependent spouses who were married for more than 20 years. A general guideline is that spousal maintenance can be required for one-third to one-half the amount of time the marriage lasted.
So someone who was married for 24 years may end up paying/receiving spousal maintenance for 12 years after the marriage has been dissolved.
But this isn’t always the case.
There are instances in which the Court could expect the supporting spouse to pay maintenance for a shorter amount of time due to the dependent spouse’s earning capability. While the couple’s incomes may be on opposite ends of the spectrum, if the dependent spouse is capable of making a significantly higher salary working his or her perspective field and able to afford the lifestyle the couple shared together, there’s a chance the supporting spouse may not have to pay spousal maintenance for as long as he or she initially anticipated.
Furthermore, a spousal maintenance arrangement can be greatly affected by the provisions in a prenuptial agreement, or may be subject to change if either party marries someone else.
There are more than a dozen factors that are considered by the Court when determining post-divorce maintenance.
An experienced matrimonial lawyer knows those factors, has studied them, and has experience arguing for and against each and every factor to be considered by the Court.
Because every case is unique, with its own set of circumstances, it’s best to consult with a trusted and informative family law attorney experienced in spousal maintenance cases. He or she will answer all your questions and inform you about what you're entitled to, or what you may be expected to pay.
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