Do I Have to Pay Spousal Support if My Ex Has a Job?

If you are headed for divorce, you will likely be concerned about property and debt division, child custody (if you have children), and naturally – spousal support. Will you have to pay it, and if so, for how long?

In New York, spousal support is money that the higher-earning spouse pays to the lower-earning spouse while they are still legally married. As long as the couple remains married, the court does not set a time limit on spousal support.

Maintenance on the other hand, is support the higher-earning spouse pays after the divorce is finalized. Maintenance is also called "alimony" or "spousal maintenance." The amount and duration of maintenance is at the discretion of the judge and is awarded on a case-by-case basis.

If you are the higher-earning spouse and your husband or wife is gainfully employed, you may be wondering if the court will still require you to pay spousal support and maintenance. It depends.

Spouses are Required to Support Each Other

Under New York law, spouses are required to financially support each other, especially if one spouse does not have sufficient funds to support themselves. Under this theory, a husband or wife can be compelled by the court to financially support their spouse after they split.

But what if my spouse is working? You still may be ordered to pay spousal support or maintenance, even if your spouse has a full-time job, especially if you earn significantly more than your spouse and you can afford it.

For example, let's say your spouse earns $25,000 a year while you earn $100,000 a year. Since there is such a discrepancy, the chances of the court ordering you to pay spousal support or maintenance are significant.

Until we know the specifics of your situation, we cannot say for sure whether you will be ordered to support your soon-to-be-ex or not. If spousal support is awarded, it terminates when the marriage ends.

Next, the Supreme Court decides whether maintenance should be awarded in a divorce case. If maintenance is awarded, the judgement will say how much maintenance is to be paid, and for how long. When deciding if maintenance should be paid, the judge considers:

  • The length of the marriage,
  • The age and health of both spouses,
  • The income and property of each spouse,
  • Each spouse's earning capacity,
  • Contributions as a homemaker or stay-at-home parent,
  • Who the children will be living with,
  • Either spouse's wasteful dissipation of marital assets,
  • Any history of domestic violence,
  • When child support is being paid, if the paying spouse can also afford maintenance, and
  • The lower-earning spouse's ability to support themselves, and if they need education or training to become self-supportive, and if so, how long that will take.

To learn more about spousal support and maintenance in NY, contact our Nassau County divorce law firm, Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C. for a free, confidential consultation.