What we used to call alimony or spousal support is now called maintenance. Unfortunately, there is no formula for determining the amount or the duration of maintenance after a divorce in New York. The law simply provides a list of factors for the judge to consider including the marital lifestyle of the parties, the length of the marriage, and the time necessary for the spouse receiving maintenance to become self-supporting.
Because there is no formula, maintenance can be a difficult issue to resolve. First of all, for the spouse paying maintenance it is a zero-sum game – for each dollar he pays, that is one less dollar available for his own bills and expenses. Knowing from experience how judges usually fashion awards after trial can give shape to the negotiations and lead to a settlement. Also, sometimes it is possible to take advantage of the fact that maintenance payments are tax deductible for the spouse paying it. An award of combined maintenance and child support can be structured to benefit both parties. The payor spouse ends up with lower taxes and both spouses end up with greater net income. This is the type of win-win that often leads to a settlement and avoids the time, expense and uncertainty of a trial.