Alimony in New York: 7 Things You Need to Know

When a couple is going through a divorce, one of the main concerns may be related to alimony or spousal maintenance. Alimony is a legal process where the spouse who earns a higher income is required to pay a monthly amount to their former partner. 

However, there may be confusion surrounding this process.The experienced alimony lawyers at Cammarata & De Meyer P.C. have compiled a list of seven important things that you need to know about alimony or spousal maintenance in New York.


1. What is the typical alimony amount in New York?

Alimony in New York, also known as spousal support or maintenance, is calculated based on the income and needs of both spouses. As per New York Domestic Relations Law § 236B(6), the court will consider factors such as the length of the marriage, the income and earning capacity of each spouse, and the standard of living during the marriage in determining the amount and duration of spousal support.

While there is no maximum amount of spousal support set by law in New York, there is a cap on the income that can be considered in calculating the amount of spousal support. As per New York Domestic Relations Law § 240(1-b)(f), the court may not consider income over $192,000 per year in calculating spousal support. This means that if the higher-earning spouse’s income is over $192,000 per year, the court will not use any amount above that figure in determining the spousal support award.

It’s important to note that the amount and duration of spousal support can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances of the case, and the court has discretion in determining the appropriate amount and duration of support.

2. How Long Will Spousal Maintenance Payments Last? 

While the duration of spousal maintenance payments is ultimately determined by the court, New York law provides some guidance:

  • For marriages lasting at least 10 years: spousal maintenance payments cannot exceed five years
  • For marriages lasting at least 20 years, but no more than 30 years: spousal maintenance payments cannot exceed seven years
  • For marriages lasting 30 years or more: spousal maintenance payments cannot exceed 10 years

Permanent spousal maintenance is rare as the court generally expects the receiving spouse to achieve financial independence.


3. Does the Court Grant Alimony in All Divorces

In New York, obtaining court-ordered alimony can be challenging for spouses. The court typically grants alimony to those who are unable to meet their minimum reasonable needs after divorce. Usually, you must have been married for at least 10 years to qualify.

Moreover, if you voluntarily choose not to work and become impoverished, the court may be less likely to award you alimony. The court wants to see that you are making a genuine effort to return to the workforce.


4. Can Alimony or Spousal Maintenance Only Be Awarded by the Court?

After finalizing a divorce, some spouses agree to contractual alimony as part of their settlement agreement. Unlike court-ordered alimony, contractual alimony does not necessarily have a maximum monthly amount. However, once the contract is signed, it cannot be modified.


5. Can Contractual Alimony Payments be Enforced?

Under New York law, if a former spouse fails to pay contractual alimony, it may be more difficult to enforce than court-ordered spousal maintenance. While a court can hold a party in contempt for failing to pay spousal maintenance, they cannot do so for payments that exceed the statutory limits.

However, the recipient spouse can file a civil suit in family court to enforce a contractual alimony agreement through specific performance or receive damages for the breach of contract. It’s important to note that courts will only enforce specific performance if the contract is deemed “fair and equitable” to both parties.

Furthermore, New York courts do not allow wage garnishment to collect overdue alimony, so there may be limitations to how much can be recovered.


6. In What Circumstances is Spousal Maintenance Terminated?

In addition to the duration of the marriage, there are other circumstances in which spousal maintenance can be terminated in New York.

For example, if the spouse receiving maintenance remarries or begins cohabitating with another person, the payments will stop.

If the recipient of spousal maintenance passes away, then the payments will come to an end. However, if the person paying the maintenance dies, their life insurance policy or estate may still be responsible for fulfilling future payments.


7. Will Alimony or Spousal Maintenance Affect My Taxes

The tax treatment of alimony varies from state to state. If your divorce was finalized before December 31, 2018, and you pay or receive alimony, you are required to report it on your taxes. Alimony payments are tax-deductible for payers and considered taxable income for recipients. However, for couples who divorced after December 31, 2018, neither court-ordered spousal maintenance nor contractual alimony is tax-deductible or taxable income. It is advisable to consult a certified public accountant (CPA) or enrolled agent (EA) before filing your taxes to ensure proper reporting of alimony.


A Staten Island Alimony Lawyer Preserving for You

After a divorce, financial obligations between former spouses may continue if alimony is involved. At Cammarata & De Meyer P.C., our alimony lawyers understand the stress associated with alimony and are here to provide you with the necessary guidance to find a solution that suits your specific needs. Whether you’re in Staten Island or New York, contact us today for expert assistance.