Divorcing spouses in New York must disclose their income and assets. The court considers this disclosure when determining if alimony or child support should be ordered. In Western New York, let a Rochester divorce attorney help you through the paperwork and the divorce process.

How is an alimony or spousal maintenance payment amount determined by a New York divorce court? What if the amount of alimony or spousal maintenance that you are ordered to pay – or that you expect to receive – is not a fair amount? How long will you pay or receive alimony?

If you are considering a divorce, or if your spouse is divorcing you, keep reading to learn more about alimony or spousal maintenance rights and obligations in the State of New York.

What “Types” of Alimony Can Be Ordered?

Under New York State law, alimony is now called “spousal maintenance.” The duration of spousal maintenance payments will depend on the specific facts of your marriage and divorce. The divorce courts in New York may order spousal maintenance payments that are temporary, “rehabilitative,” or permanent.

“Temporary” maintenance is the alimony paid during the divorce procedure. It ends when the divorce is final. The court typically uses a formula that decides the temporary maintenance amount, but a judge may change that amount when a different amount is more just or appropriate.

“Rehabilitative” maintenance may be ordered if one spouse does not have the education or skills to be self-supportive after a divorce. Rehabilitative maintenance is not permanent, but it is usually ordered if one partner left the workforce during the marriage to raise the couple’s family.

Is “Permanent” Spousal Maintenance Always Permanent?

“Permanent” maintenance, despite the term “permanent,” usually is not for life. Instead, the court considers a number of factors, including how long the couple was married, to determine how long “permanent” payments will be made. Permanent alimony is usually ordered by the court:

1. after a lengthy marriage
2. if there is a large discrepancy in the two spouses’ incomes
3. if one spouse is ill, unable to work, or otherwise cannot be self-sufficient

For How Long is “Durational” Alimony Paid?

“Permanent” spousal maintenance in New York can be “durational” or “nondurational.” Durational maintenance is paid for a fixed amount of time to allow the spouse receiving the payments to become self-supporting. How long is durational spousal maintenance paid?

According to the advisory schedule set forth in the New York Domestic Relations Law, the duration of maintenance payments is as follows:

1. For marriages that lasted up to 15 years, durational spousal maintenance is paid for 15 to 30 percent of the length of the marriage.

2. For marriages that lasted 15 to 20 years, durational spousal maintenance is paid for 30 to 40 percent of the length of the marriage.

3. For marriages that lasted beyond 20 years, durational spousal maintenance is paid for 35 to 50 percent of the length of the marriage.

However, “nondurational” maintenance can be genuinely permanent in some cases. “Nondurational” spousal maintenance payments are made until one spouse dies or until the receiving spouse remarries or co-habits with a new partner in a marriage-like living arrangement.

What Do Judges Consider When They Make Alimony Decisions?

Judges take a wide range of factors into account before ordering durational or nondurational spousal maintenance payments. These factors include but are not limited to:

1. the length of the marriage
2. the incomes and properties of both partners
3. the age and health of both partners
4. the current and projected future incomes of both partners
5. the capacity of the receiving spouse to be self-supportive
6. the loss of one partner’s income as the result of giving up a career
7. whether minor children are still residing with one partner
8. whether there are disabled or adult children who require special care
9. the loss of health insurance coverage as a consequence of the divorce
10. any other factor that the court believes it should consider

A court must also consider anticipated retirement assets, benefits, and the retirement eligibility age of both spouses when it determines the duration of maintenance.

How Are Alimony Payments Usually Made?

New York’s divorce courts typically require alimony payments to be made monthly. If payments are not made in a timely manner, the receiving spouse can file a request with the court and seek assistance in collecting the overdue payments.

In some cases, the court may allow the paying spouse’s employer to deduct the payment amount from the paying spouse’s wages and forward the payment directly to the receiving spouse.

In other cases, the spouses may agree to a lump-sum spousal maintenance payment. While this eliminates the monthly waiting for a spousal maintenance payment, most divorcing spouses are not in a position to make a lump-sum payment after a divorce.

Are Alimony Payments Tax-Deductible?

A note regarding taxes: For divorces that became final before December 31, 2018, spousal maintenance payments are deductible for the paying ex-spouse and are taxable income for the recipient spouse.

However, as a result of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, maintenance payments ordered on or after January 1, 2019, are not tax-deductible for the paying ex-spouse and not considered as income for the receiving ex-spouse.

Can a Court’s Alimony Order Be Changed?

Divorcing in New York is often a complicated legal process. If you are divorcing in the Rochester area, you should be advised and represented from the beginning by the right New York divorce attorney.

Whether you are ordered to pay or receive spousal maintenance as a part of your divorce settlement, you may feel that the court’s decision is not fair. A Rochester divorce lawyer can review the decision. If it isn’t fair, your attorney can request a modification of the court order.

Having the Right Attorney is Essential

If you are getting a divorce, the decisions that a New York divorce court makes regarding a spousal maintenance dispute – as well as the decisions regarding the division of property and assets, child custody, and child support payments – will have a significant impact on your future.

Spousal maintenance payments are not ordered after every divorce in New York, but if spousal maintenance payments become an issue in your own divorce, it is essential to have the right Rochester divorce attorney working on your behalf.