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Alimony and spousal support representation in White Plains, NY
Spousal maintenance, also called spousal support or alimony, is the financial obligation one spouse has to the other post-divorce. The purpose of spousal maintenance is to provide support to the lower-earning spouse after a divorce so that they may maintain their standard of living until they become self-sufficient. The amount of spousal support paid can vary widely from one couple to another, depending on their circumstances.
Some couples can come to agreement on alimony together, but other couples may be in dispute and need a third party to decide. The White Plains divorce attorneys at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP have decades of experience helping clients just like you. Whether you are seeking spousal support or believe you will be paying support, our lawyers work to ensure that you are treated fairly. Talk to us today for smart legal guidance.
How does alimony work in Westchester?
There are two types of spousal maintenance in New York – temporary and post-divorce:
- Temporary maintenance is alimony paid to a spouse while the divorce is ongoing. This allows the lower-earning spouse to meet their reasonable needs and, ideally, maintain their standard of living during the divorce, and until the final divorce agreement is entered into the court.
- Post-divorce maintenance is the alimony entered into the final divorce agreement, as ordered by the court (or agreed upon by the spouses).
Post-divorce maintenance can be broken down further into either durational or permanent.
- Durational maintenance is alimony paid for a limited period. It is meant to give the spouse an opportunity to gain the necessary skills to enter the workforce and become self-sufficient and no longer need alimony.
- Permanent maintenance is not as common, but is typically awarded in cases of lengthy marriages, when one spouse is ill, unable to work, or there is a significant discrepancy in incomes.
Many spouses also agree to end maintenance upon certain events, like remarriage or cohabitation with a partner. Our attorneys are happy to address any of your questions or concerns about spousal maintenance and support.
Does the court award spousal maintenance automatically?
No. Neither party is granted alimony automatically during a divorce. Generally, the lower-earning spouse petitions the court to grant them spousal maintenance. Many requests for alimony come from spouses exiting long-term marriages, or when one spouse delayed their career to care for family. Common situations where the court may consider awarding spousal maintenance include when one spouse:
- Earns significantly less than the other
- Gave up their career during the marriage to care for the children or the home
- Has limits on their earning ability due to age, health, or lack of education
- Left their job to care for a sick child or family member
- Took a lower-paying job during the marriage to support the other spouse’s business or schooling
How does the court calculate spousal support?
When calculating alimony and spousal maintenance, the court will first subject both parties’ incomes up to an income “cap” to a statutory formula. The result of this formula is the presumptively correct amount of maintenance that will be paid. However, the court may deviate from this amount by taking any of the following factors into account:
- Income and property
- Length of the marriage
- Age and health of both parties
- Present and future earning capacity of both parties
- Need of one party to incur education or training expenses
- Existence and duration of a pre-marital cohabitation or a pre-divorce separate habitation
- Acts that have inhibited or continue to inhibit a spouse’s earning capacity or ability to obtain meaningful employment — such acts can include things like physical abuse
- Ability of the spouse seeking maintenance to become self-supporting and, how long any training might take
- Reduced or lost lifetime earning capacity of the spouse seeking maintenance as a result of having foregone or delayed education, training, employment, or career opportunities during the marriage
- Where the children live — if children will live with the receiving spouse, and this restricts that spouse’s ability to earn an income, that can be taken into account
- Need to care for family members other than children
- Inability of one spouse to obtain meaningful employment due to age or absence from the workforce
- Need to pay for exceptional additional expenses — for example, for the children, such as schooling, day care and medical treatment
- Tax consequences to each spouse — maintenance is considered income under the tax code
- Equitable distribution of marital property
- Contributions and services of the spouse seeking maintenance as a spouse, parent, wage earner and homemaker, and to the career or career potential of the other party
- Wasteful dissipation of marital property by either spouse
- Transfer or encumbrance made in contemplation of a matrimonial action without fair consideration
- Loss of health insurance benefits upon dissolution of the marriage
- Any other factor the court expressly finds to be just and proper
Additionally, income that is “over the cap” can result in an increased award of maintenance. For example, the current “income cap” is $192,000, meaning the spousal support calculations will only apply to that amount of income. However, if the spouses earn a total of $500,000, that extra $308,000 may be dealt with by the court by increasing the amount of maintenance over and above that set by the formula. It’s complicated, and getting a favorable maintenance decision, whether by litigation or negotiation, requires an attorney who understands how courts and other lawyers view these awards in light of both the law and relevant facts.
NYCourts.gov provides worksheets and calculators to get an idea of what you may pay or receive.
The Westchester alimony attorneys at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP will advocate on your behalf to ensure your spousal maintenance agreement is both fair and realistic.
My ex-spouse is refusing to pay spousal maintenance. Can you help?
If you have court-ordered alimony, there are several ways to handle delinquent support payments. Our attorneys recommend attempting to reach out directly to your ex to resolve the situation first. If you cannot or do not want to communicate with your ex-spouse, our lawyers can do this for you. However, if this method fails, you may wish to file an order enforcement with the Westchester courts.
The court is authorized to enforce a spousal maintenance order through a variety of remedies, including:
- Wage deduction orders
- Financial restitution
- Contempt of court charges
- Jail time
Remember, without a court order for spousal support, it cannot be legally enforced. This is why, even in the most amicable of divorces, you should always have a court-approved divorce settlement agreement.
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The family law attorneys at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP can help protect your financial security when determining alimony and other divorce matters. We will advocate on your behalf for fair and reasonable payments, whether you are the payor or the payee. Schedule a consultation today by calling us at (212) 466-6015 or contacting us online. We have offices in White Plains for your convenience.