Is Spousal Maintenance Guaranteed in New York?

If you are headed towards a divorce on Long Island, spousal support may be at the top of your mind. If you're the higher earner, you may wonder, "Will I be ordered to financially support my ex?" and if you're the lower earner, you may be curious, "Will I be able to receive alimony?"

Before we begin, we want to explain the difference between spousal support and spousal maintenance, which are not the same thing. In New York, the higher-earning spouse may pay spousal support while the couple is still married. In contrast, spousal maintenance is paid after a couple's divorce is finalized.

Often, the Family Court will award spousal support in situations where the lower-earning spouse cannot meet all of their financial obligations while the divorce is pending through the courts. For example, suppose a woman had been a homemaker for five years and had no source of income. In that case, the court may award spousal support so she can pay her bills.

Once the woman's divorce is final however, the court will either terminate the spousal support payments, or it will convert the spousal support into spousal maintenance. Is spousal support automatic in all New York divorces? No, it is not automatic and it is not guaranteed. Courts award spousal support and maintenance on a case-by-case basis, partially dependent on the need and the wealthier spouse's ability to pay it.

For more information on spousal support under New York law, please refer to the spousal support guidelines that are applicable for pre-divorce and post-divorce spousal support awards. You can find helpful calculation tools here.

Do Unemployed Spouses Have to Get Jobs?

This is a very good question, and it comes up a lot. For starters, we want to make it clear that spousal support and maintenance are gender neutral, even though more women are awarded support and maintenance than men. That's because men still tend to earn more money than women.

So, what if a stay-at-home parent has been out of the workforce to care for the couple's children, will they have to get a job after the divorce? Unless the couple is very wealthy and the stay-at-home mother or father was unemployed for years, in many cases stay-at-home parents and homemakers do have to go back to work. Even when spousal support and maintenance are awarded, that doesn't mean the payments are enough to cover one's living expenses, nor does it mean they last indefinitely.

These days, divorce tends to thrust a large percentage of unemployed spouses back into the workforce, even when they have school-aged children. If you are unemployed or underemployed and hoping for spousal support, we recommend contacting our Long Island divorce firm to discuss the possibilities. This way, you can have realistic expectations.

Seeking a divorce attorney? Contact Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C. for representation throughout Nassau County!