Although alimony is not awarded in every New York divorce, a judge may award alimony if there’s a large difference in the spouses’ finances and/or earning capacity. New York law establishes when alimony is appropriate as well as guidelines for determining alimony amounts. Alimony (also called “spousal maintenance” or “spousal support”) may terminate if the supported spouse remarries or dies, although there are exceptions.
This article provides an overview of alimony in New York. If you have questions after reading this article, contact a local family law attorney for advice.
“Spousal maintenance” or “alimony” involves court-ordered payments made by one spouse to the other. Neither spouse has an automatic right to alimony in every divorce case. Instead, a judge will evaluate each spouse’s needs and financial situation to determine whether a maintenance award is appropriate in your case.
New York recognizes two main types of alimony: temporary maintenance and post-divorce maintenance. As the name implies, “temporary maintenance” is alimony ordered temporarily while a divorce action is pending. “Post-divorce maintenance” is any alimony awarded after a divorce is final. This includes alimony made in a lump sum payment, alimony for a set period of time, or long-term alimony payments.
When determining whether alimony is appropriate in your case and how much to award, a judge may evaluate the following factors to determine post-divorce maintenance:
A judge will decide how much weight to give each factor. Ultimately, the needs of the spouse requesting alimony (also called the “recipient spouse” or the “supported spouse”) and the other spouse’s ability to pay will determine the outcome of your case. New York has an alimony calculator available on the New York Courts website to help you estimate an alimony award in your case. See N.Y. Dom. Rel. § 236B(6) (2020).
Many spouses who pay alimony as part of a divorce wonder, when will alimony end. In New York, a judge will modify alimony when a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, but a modification of alimony isn't automatic—the requesting spouse must file a motion with the court asking for a change in the amount of support.
A post-divorce alimony award lasts until under the award is modified, either spouse dies, or the recipient spouse remarries. In some cases, a recipient spouse’s cohabitation can spell the end of alimony payments. See N.Y. Dom. Rel. § 236B(a) (2020).
Although marital fault is not typically considered when awarding alimony in New York, true cohabitation can end a supported spouse’ right to collect alimony payments. Under New York law, cohabitation is more than a romantic relationship where a boyfriend or girlfriend occasionally spends the night. Instead, cohabitation occurs when the recipient spouse habitually lives with a romantic partner and the two act as husband and wife. Cohabitation is extremely difficult to show, but if the paying spouse can prove it, a court can terminate the alimony obligation. See N.Y. Dom. Rel. § 238 (2020).
In New York, alimony typically terminates upon a recipient spouse’s remarriage, though some exceptions may apply. A divorce order may require alimony to continue after the recipient spouse’s remarriage in certain circumstances. However, if there is no such provision in your divorce decree, alimony will automatically terminate when the supported spouse remarries. If the obligor spouse continues paying alimony without knowing his or her ex has remarried, the obligor spouse can seek reimbursement of alimony paid after the remarriage.
If you have additional questions about the impact of remarriage on alimony rights in New York, contact a local family law attorney for advice.