Remarriage and Alimony in New York

Understanding the impact of remarriage on alimony orders.

While alimony is not awarded in every New York divorce, in cases where there's a large difference in income, one spouse (the "obligor" or "paying" spouse) may be required to financially support the other (the "recipient” or "supported" spouse). Alimony may come to an end if the supported spouse remarries, although there are exceptions.

This article provides an overview of how remarriage impacts alimony payments in New York. If you have questions after reading this article, contact a local family law attorney for advice.

Alimony Basics

Alimony (also called maintenance or spousal support in some states) is not an automatic right in every divorce case. In deciding whether alimony is appropriate, a court will examine the needs of the spouse requesting alimony and the other spouse’s ability to pay. Courts in New York must consider several factors before awarding alimony, including:

  • the length of the marriage
  • the present and future earning potential of the spouses
  • the age and health of the spouses
  • the needs of each spouse including education and training expenses
  • the ability of the spouse seeking alimony to become self-supporting
  • the family financial obligations of each spouse
  • the property owned by each spouse
  • the actions by one spouse that have inhibited the other spouse’s earning capacity (such as, but not limited to, domestic violence)
  • the loss of health insurance benefits due to divorce
  • the tax consequences of receiving or paying alimony
  • the contributions that one spouse has made as a homemaker to enhance the other spouse’s earning capacity
  • the waste of property by either spouse (such as lost marital funds through gambling addiction)
  • the transfer of property by either spouse that is unfair (such as hiding assets), and
  • any other factor the court deems relevant.

There are several types of spousal support, which address various needs. For example, temporary support lasts only while the divorce is pending, to help cover basic needs. Rehabilitative alimony is meant to help a supported spouse obtain the education needed to join the workforce and become self supporting. Permanent alimony is reserved for long-term marriages where the supported spouse has little ability or likelihood of becoming self-sufficient in order to maintain the marital standard of living. Permanent support typically continues until the death of either party or remarriage of the supported spouse.

Alimony can be made in periodic payments, a single lump-sum payment, a percentage of earnings, or a transfer of property.

Modification or Termination of Alimony

In New York, alimony can be modified when a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, three years have passed since the alimony order was entered or modified, or there has been at least a 15% change in either spouse’s income. A modification of alimony is not automatic; it requires the spouse seeking the modification to file a motion with the court asking for a change in the amount of support.

The alimony order will usually set forth the date on which alimony ends. However, alimony may also terminate upon the death, remarriage or cohabitation of the recipient spouse in some circumstances.

Impact of Cohabitation on Alimony

Although marital fault is not typically considered when awarding alimony in New York, true cohabitation can spell the end of 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 their partner and the two act as husband and wife. Cohabitation is extremely difficult to prove, but if the obligor spouse can prove it has occurred, his or her alimony obligation will terminate.

Impact of Remarriage on Alimony in New York

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. However, if there is no such provision in the order, alimony will automatically terminate when a supported spouse gets remarried. If the obligor spouse continues paying alimony without knowing his or her ex-spouse has remarried, he or she has a right to reimbursement, unless the divorce order says otherwise.

If you have additional questions about the impact of remarriage on alimony rights in New York, contact a local family law attorney for advice.

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