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How Long Must I Pay Spousal Support?


There are numerous circumstances under which a spousal support award in New York can be modified. Unless the parties have included different terms in their separation agreement or the court has specified otherwise in its decision, permanent spousal maintenance terminates when:

  • Either party dies
  • The recipient of the spousal support remarries
  • The recipient cohabitates with another person while holding himself or herself out as that person’s spouse
  • A significant change in circumstance

An example of such an agreement between the parties was seen in Burn v. Burn.

In that case, the parties’ separation agreement provided that in exchange for waiving an interest in certain distributable marital property, the wife would receive spousal maintenance from her husband until the death of either party. Although the separation agreement in this case did not specify whether the husband’s support obligations would be affected by the recipient’s marital status, the court looked at the maintenance clause in light of the agreement as a whole. Ultimately, the court found that the parties had intended maintenance to continue regardless of marital status.

The spousal award can be modified by the court due to other circumstances, if one or both parties file an application for modification. A change in circumstance could include a loss of employment and/or a significant reduction in income. Note that if a former recipient later gets divorced, spousal maintenance is not revived.

Consulting a knowledgeable New York divorce attorney is crucial to ensuring that these types of agreements conform to your expectations.