Five Things You Should Know About Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance, also known as spousal support or alimony, is an important part of protecting the rights of spouses after a divorce. Without it, many divorcing spouses would face undue hardship, struggling to pay for themselves and their dependents without the income of their ex-spouse. Here are five things you need to know about spousal maintenance:

  1. It is not the same thing as child support
    • While spousal maintenance and child support often go hand in hand, they are not the same thing, and one can be awarded without the other. However, the decision about whether to award spousal maintenance can be dependent on whether there are other existing obligations from the divorce, such as child support. Both spousal maintenance and child support can also have an impact on the equitable distribution of the shared marital property.
  2. It is typically awarded in cases of extreme income differences
    • One of the biggest reasons for awarding spousal maintenance is when one of the spouses has a significantly higher income than the other. This could happen simply because one spouse has a much better paying job, or it could happen if one spouse took time off of work to raise their children. Whatever the case, an important purpose of maintenance is to address this inequality and prevent a serious drop in the quality of life for the spouse with the lesser income.
  3. It is more likely when a couple has been married a long time
    • A judge is more likely to award spousal maintenance when a couple has been together for a long time. This is because the longer the couple has been together, the more dependent they have presumably become on each other’s income, and therefore the more it hurts when that second income is taken away. It also addresses issues that may arise due to inequality that might occur due to a large amount of personal property being intermingled with shared marital property.
  4. There are different types of spousal maintenance
    • There are three types of spousal maintenance in New York. The first, temporary maintenance, is paid during the divorce itself and ends when there is a final order of divorce or when a more permanent award is granted. The second, rehabilitative maintenance, is awarded when one spouse has been out of the workforce for some time and needs money to get on their feet. The third, permanent maintenance, lasts indefinitely after divorce, usually with some predetermined end point (such as the spouse getting remarried).
  5. Spousal maintenance is dependent on judicial discretion
    • The decision about whether to award spousal maintenance is ultimately up to the judge presiding over the case. Because of that discretion, there is a great deal of variation in the decision about whether to award maintenance in various cases. That is why it is important to be represented by a lawyer with knowledge of family and divorce law, who can argue on your behalf and get you the best chance at a favorable outcome.

If you have questions regarding spousal maintenance or other aspects of family law, you should seek advice from an attorney experienced in handling these matters. A New York matrimonial lawyer, who is experienced in handling family law cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you are facing a dispute related to the equitable distribution of property, child custody, child support, or any other family law issue, contact the Suffolk County family court lawyers at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702 or visit our contact page.

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