ARE YOU ENTITLED TO SPOUSAL SUPPORT?
Sometimes clients are confused as to how spousal support works. As a psychologically-trained
mediator and divorce attorney, I often define what spousal support is
and how it applies to a couple’s situation in my mediation sessions
with clients. In a mediation setting, spousal support can be negotiated
with both Parties having a clear understanding of the topic. Spousal support
can be calculated and defined to meet the goals of those going through
a mediated divorce with ease. In a court setting however, there are specific
guidelines on how spousal support applies and you don’t always have
the luxury of negotiating what is in the best interest of both Parties.
Here’s how it works:
Spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance or “alimony”, helps the recipient
achieve financial independence after a divorce. During the course of a
divorce proceeding, it is awarded to the spouse (male or female, and in
New York State this includes same-sex couples) who is financially dependent
on the other spouse during the course of the marriage. Spousal support
can be awarded on a short-term or lifetime basis but is generally given
for rehabilitative purposes (so the lower income spouse can go get their
MBA or their
Ph.D to give them a better opportunity to earn a higher salary). At the present
time, Spousal support is tax deductible for the payor and is taxable income
for the recipient. However, this will change next year with the new tax law.
Not to be confused with
temporary alimony or
temporary spousal support, which is awarded
only until a divorce is finalized.
Awarding spousal support is not as clear-cut as something like child support.
While there is a formula in the New York Stature that is normally used
to compute spousal support, the amount of money awarded is often subjective
with a judge. And many different factors come into play when awarding
- Length of the marriage
- Earning capacity of each Party in the divorce
- Earning impairment for one or both Parties in the divorce
- Property and whether it was acquired by one or both Parties before or during
- Income of both Parties
- Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
- The lifestyle maintained by both Parties during the course of the marriage
Because there are so many combinations and permutations of the aforementioned
factors that affect spousal support, fighting over it can become costly
and drawn out—in some cases for
years after the divorce. In the court of law, you are essentially at the mercy
of a judge who may have a biased opinion when it comes to the subject
of how much spousal support you deserve.
Negotiating the spousal support amount with a professional divorce mediator
is a much better idea than going to court because it allows for a solution
that is in the best interests of both Parties. For example, because there
are currently tax implications with spousal support, both Parties in the
divorce can work with a mediator to review their expected income along
with child support and the distribution of their marital property to find
a tax-friendly resolution that makes sense for everyone.
With spousal support and divorce, there are always numerous question marks
and concerns, but with proper counsel and support there is a solution!
If you have any other questions about spousal support and how mediation
can be helpful when defining spousal support in a customized way, please feel free to call me at
I look forward to helping you.