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What “Alimony” Looks Like in New York State

“Lifestyle to Which One Has Been Accustomed” is a Myth

I put the word alimony in quotations in the title of this article as it seems to be most commonly used and understood.  In New York State, the terms Spousal Support and/or Spousal Maintenance are the ‘official‘ terms.

In 2015 the New York State Legislature instituted a formula to determine a guideline amount and duration of post- divorce maintenance. In this article, I’m going to lay out a couple of scenarios and show what the spousal support amounts would be in hopes of putting to rest myths about “alimony”.  Spousal support exists to give a spouse time to become self-supporting post-divorce, it is not meant to punish an unfaithful spouse and it does not keep the recipient in the “lifestyle to which they have been accustomed.”

Following are a few scenarios and the resulting calculations.  It is important to note that under the new legislation, spousal support is currently calculated only on income up to $184,000 per year and the calculation is linked to child support.  Also, the duration schedule set forth under the new guidelines does not allow for “permanent” maintenance (though it could be ordered by a judge under special circumstances).

SCENARIO 1: Married 15 years. A “moneyed” spouse (as they are referred to in the divorce world) makes $175,000.  The Stay At Home Parent (SAHP) stepped away from a career to raise two children who are now ages 12 and 9. Spousal Support:   $2,743 per month ($32,915 per year) for between 4 ½ years and six years.

SCENARIO 2Married six years.  The moneyed spouse makes $85,000 per year and a SAHP with two young children ages 2 and 4.  Spousal Support:  $1,308 per month ($15,700/year) for between 11 mos. and 1 year 10 months.

SCENARIO 3: Married 27 years. The moneyed spouse makes $300,000 per year and the spouse works in a job they love but makes little money ($30,000 per year). Spousal Support:  $4,061 per month ($48,735 per year) for between 9 ½ years and 13 ½ years.

SCENARIO 4: Married 10 years. Both are working. One spouse makes $175,000 per year, the other makes $120,000 per year and there are no children.  Spousal Support: $0

It would be hard to argue that the calculated spousal support alone would keep any of the recipients in the “lifestyle to which they have been accustomed”.  However in a mediated divorce parties can opt out of the statutory formula and settle on an amount that seems fair. Many times the calculated numbers don’t make sense for the circumstances of the family and sitting down together at a table with a divorce mediator with a strong financial background, couples can come up with creative ways to receive what they are entitled to or what they need without bankrupting the other.

I urge couples who are considering divorce and have been putting it off to take action soon.  There are tax benefits around spousal support that are going away beginning in 2019 but will remain in effect for all spousal support payments pursuant to agreements executed prior to December 31, 2018.  Note that you do not have to be divorced prior to this date but your agreement would have to be negotiated, drawn up and signed by the end of 2018. If you mediate, you still have time to get this done.  I offer a free consultation and I can be reached at 518-813-6098.

About Divorce Agree
Divorce Agree was launched in 2013 by Michele Martin, divorce mediator and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA™) to provide mediation and divorce financial counseling services to couples in the greater Capital District. Divorce Agree offers couples a free consultation to educate couples on mediation as well as the other divorce options available to them. Divorce Agree is located in Malta, NY which is convenient to divorcing couples from all over the greater Capital District and North Country including Saratoga, Warren, Albany and also Schenectady Counties. The phone number is 518-813-6098. Divorce Agree can be found on the internet at www.divorceagree.com.

About Divorce Hotel
Michele Martin is a mediator and the U.S. Country Manager for the Divorce Hotel. Couples can also choose the Divorce Hotel option and mediate their divorce over the course of a few days in a luxury hotel setting.  Divorce Hotel was founded in 2011 in the Netherlands as a unique divorce concept and was launched in the United States in 2014.  Divorce Hotel provides couples with the peace of mind of knowing exactly what their divorce will cost, how long the process will take and is a positive new start. For more information visit www.divorcehotel.com or contact Michele directly at 518-813-6098.