For an individual that finds themselves in a situation where divorce is imminent, it is crucial to appreciate expectations from the proceeding. One of the most controversial topics is spousal maintenance, otherwise known as alimony, as its highly subjective from the view of the judge.
First, courts must determine which spouse will be obligated to pay support. Support is often awarded when there is a significant gap in income. When determining the individual’s ability to pay support and the amount to be granted, the court will come up with a figure for net income. This usually involves calculating gross income from all sources including wages, public benefits, interest and dividends on investments, property rentals, and any other sources of income, less any mandatory deductions such as income taxes, Social Security, and health care. The result is the payer’s net income. The court will then use a formula outlined in New York State Maintenance Statutes (Domestic Relations Law 236; Part B: Subsection 5-a) to calculate a figure for the maintenance award.
Then, once the court identified the payer and amount of maintenance to be awarded, it must decide on the duration of time to pay alimony. Support can be granted temporarily, long-term, or in periodic or lump sum payments. Some factors the court considers in determinations are:
- Whether the couple has children and the amount of child support
- The ability of the recipient to earn or become self-supporting,
- length of the marriage, and
- any other factor the court finds to be just and proper.
The purpose of an alimony award is to help the receiving spouse become financially independent both during and after a divorce. Once an alimony case has been set, the courts then opine on the amount to be awarded and its duration. There are several facets the courts will analyze in this situation, including who the payor will be, as well as what type of alimony it will be (i.e., temporary, periodic or lump sum).
Additionally, there are specific situations in which the maintenance award will end automatically, including the death of either party, the remarriage of the receiving party, a date specified in an agreement between the parties, or a period determined by the court. The court may also decide to deem the alimony either modifiable or non-modifiable (cannot be changed once established).
In conclusion, there is a multitude of factors and circumstances that go into determining the amount and duration of an alimony award and whether awarded at all. Ultimately the fate of the parties is in the hands of the court, which makes it crucial for an individual going through a divorce to know their rights. This often involves hiring appropriate legal counsel. Many firms will offer a free consultation, which, based on the life-changing importance of the court’s decision, every individual in this situation should utilize.