Spousal maintenance (support) is a court-ordered, monetary payment to aid a spouse during and/or after divorce. On January 25, 2016, a New York state law came into effect that set presumptive amounts and duration for maintenance after a divorce.
Factors of Spousal Maintenance
Spousal maintenance can either be set for life or a specific timeframe. However, the majority of cases award spousal maintenance for a predetermined number of years. Spousal maintenance is gender neutral, meaning a spouse of any gender can be awarded maintenance. Courts primarily focus on a couple’s standard of living, property amount/worth, and income when deciding who will get spousal maintenance.
To decide the duration and amount, a court will consider the following factors:
- Income and Property: Courts are required to consider property of both spouses separately and together. If the party seeking spousal maintenance will receive a significant portion of the marital property or relies on an inheritance for their primary source of income, the award amount will be lower.
- Marital Length: The longer a marriage, the more likely the spouse seeking maintenance will receive a higher amount. This is especially true if the spouse chose to stay home and raise the children.
- Health and Age of Each Spouse: If one spouse is of an advanced age or does not have great health, the maintenance award could be larger.
- Earning Capacity of Each Spouse: Courts will focus on the current status of the party seeking support, as well as their future ability to support themselves. If they can obtain employment or education that will allow them to become self-sufficient, maintenance will only be awarded for a short time. If the party seeking maintenance cannot become self-sufficient, the courts will structure the amount to address any limitations.
- Education or Training Expenses: If the spouse seeking maintenance needs to be properly trained before they can become self-sufficient, the courts may award maintenance for the time period needed to complete any training courses.
- Duration of a Joint Household: This could include spouses who lived together before they got married. It could also affect the court’s determination of how long the marriage truly lasted.
- Inhibition of Earning Capacity: If the spouse seeking maintenance spends the majority of their time taking care of children, disabled adults, or parents who can no longer take care of themselves, the court may award a larger maintenance amount. The court will also consider the age of the spouse seeking maintenance, as well as how long they have been out of the workforce.
- Equitable Distribution of Marital Property: A couple’s marital property will be divided as equally as the court sees fit. If one spouse is awarded the marital home, that spouse could pay maintenance to the other to pay off their equity in the home.
- Health Insurance: When a couple divorces, they can no longer stay on the other’s family health insurance plan. Rather, the spouse covered on the other’s plan may have to continue their health insurance on COBRA at their own expense. The courts may consider these costs in maintenance awards.
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