Spousal Maintenance, Alimony, and Spousal Support in New York

Spousal maintenance, spousal support, and alimony all refer to payments made by one spouse to the other to assist with living expenses. When spouses are divorced or in the process of getting divorced, New York law refers to the payments as spousal maintenance, but they are the same as alimony.

When payments are made between spouses who do not intend to divorce, they are known as spousal support. Spouses have a legal obligation to support each other as long as they remain married, and courts often impose an obligation for one spouse to continue to provide support after the marriage has ended. Unlike child support, and in the absence of an agreement by the parties, the decision whether to require spousal maintenance rests largely with the judge’s discretion. Divorcing couples should ensure that their attorneys make the best possible arguments to achieve their objectives for spousal maintenance.

At Nolletti Law Group, we understand the myriad factors that go into a spousal maintenance determination, and we are experienced in presenting to the court all the factors that weigh in our clients’ favor to help get the strongest outcome.

Types of Spousal Maintenance

New York law provides for temporary spousal maintenance to be paid to support one spouse during a divorce proceeding. This is also known as “pendente lite” maintenance.

Post-divorce maintenance is support paid from one former spouse to the other after the divorce becomes final. The sum of temporary maintenance can be modified by the court when determining post-divorce maintenance.

Maintenance Amounts

While the decision whether to order spousal maintenance may be left to a judge’s discretion, the amount of both temporary and postdivorce maintenance is generally calculated based on statutory formulas. There is also a formula to determine the duration of maintenance payments.

The statutory formulas take the incomes of each spouse and the duration of the marriage into consideration.

However, the formula is just a guideline and ultimately, the court holds the discretion to adjust the amounts, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case, which includes marital lifestyle.

Spousal Maintenance Amount and Duration: Factors

Beyond the formulas, the court considers the practical needs and responsibilities of each party while moving forward after the divorce. For example, if the parties have young children and the custodial parent cannot re-enter the workforce without additional school or training, the duration of maintenance may exceed the guidelines. Conversely, if the non-moneyed spouse has the training and ability to work, income may be imputed even though the spouse is not currently in the workforce.

If the parties had a high standard of living during the marriage and one party has a much higher earning capacity than the other, a court may be more likely to order additional maintenance.

A Change in Circumstances Can Affect Support Payments

To terminate or modify maintenance, the New York Domestic Relations Law offers the following mechanisms:

Upon application by either party, the court may annul or modify any prior order or judgment made after trial as to maintenance, upon a showing of the payee’s inability to be self-supporting or upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstance, including financial hardship or upon actual full or partial retirement of the payor if the retirement results in a substantial change in financial circumstances. Where an agreement remains in force, no modification of an order or judgment incorporating the terms of said agreement shall be made as to maintenance without a showing of extreme hardship on either party, in which event the judgment or order as modified shall supersede the terms of the prior agreement and judgment for such period of time and under such circumstances as the court determines.

Contact Nolletti Law Group for Your Divorce-Related Issues


The team at Nolletti Law Group has decades of experience handling complex financial matters connected with divorce, including all aspects of spousal maintenance and support. We work to get the right arrangements during divorce proceedings, but we can also help you modify maintenance arrangements when circumstances change.

We understand that emergencies don’t always occur during regular office hours, so we keep our lines of communication open to handle unexpected developments.

Schedule your initial consultation online or complete the form and we will be ready to assist.