Can I Get More Spousal Support in New York if I Lose My Job?

New York State’s unemployment rate in August 2022 was about 4.7%, higher than the national average of 3.5%. From digital asset managers to pharmaceutical manufacturers and ice cream makers, recent layoffs are affecting New Yorkers.

Any income loss can hurt the household budget but losing a job is particularly damaging. If you have been laid off or fired and currently receive spousal support or maintenance, you might have grounds to petition for an increase.

Spousal Support and Maintenance Eligibility

Either spouse has an equal right to request spousal support, temporary maintenance, and/or spousal maintenance. While these two terms are used interchangeably by some, they mean different things under New York law.

Spousal support refers to financial payments made from one spouse to the other before a divorce has been filed. Temporary maintenance is given during a pending divorce. Spousal maintenance is financial payments awarded to be paid after the divorce has been finalized.

Grounds for Increasing Spousal Support or Maintenance

The incomes of both spouses and the need of the requesting spouse factor into how much – if any – financial support is granted. Because income is considered by the court in its decision, any change to that data could impact that decision and warrant an updated determination.

Spousal support ordered by the court after a trial can be modified in three situations:

  • Either spouse experienced at least a 15% change in income
  • There is a substantial change in circumstances
  • More than three years have passed since the order was entered

Other potential grounds for an increase in maintenance include the following:

  • A new or worsening illness
  • A new or worsening disability
  • An increase in the cost of living
  • A financial emergency

Modifications to financial provisions in a negotiated divorce agreement (or prenuptial agreement) will only be approved by the court if the petitioner can demonstrate extreme hardship. The loss of employment alone may not qualify.

The court will not make a change if it believes that the person became intentionally unemployed in an effort to receive more financial support from their former partner.

Child Support May Be Adjusted for Job Loss

When one parent loses their job, their ability to provide for the children is significantly impacted. A custodial parent experiencing a drastic drop in income can ask for a higher level of financial support for their shared children.

Child support is based on multiple factors, including the incomes of both parents. When the income of one parent changes, the calculation can be revisited. The court will examine the totality of the new circumstances, including the likelihood of re-employment in the near future and other available assets and resources.

Similar to spousal support, the courts consider modifications if there is at least a 15% shift in income, it’s been at least three years since the order was implemented, or another substantial change in circumstances has occurred. The court will typically deny a request for increased child support if the requesting parent voluntarily left their job or was fired for criminal wrongdoing. If the judge agrees to the change, the amount of the order will only go back to the date the petition was filed in court, not the date that the circumstances changed.

Helping You Create a Strong Case for Increased Support

A judge tasked with determining whether to approve a support increase will evaluate specific facts about the case. How those facts are presented is crucial to improving the chances of success.

At Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C., we invest time to understand every aspect of our client’s situation. This dedication enables us to fully demonstrate the need for the increase before the judge. No case is assured a positive outcome, but we bring our highest efforts every time.

If you need to modify your spousal or child support, schedule a free consultation by calling (516) 406-8381.