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Factors In Awarding Maintenance

One of the first questions clients ask is will I receive maintenance, otherwise known in some jurisdictions as alimony, and for how long? The answer to these questions depends on a host of factors. The general rule in New York is that for every three (3) years of marriage you are entitled to one (1) year of maintenance. However, there are other factors to consider such as the health, age and employability of the other spouse.

In determining an award of maintenance, the Court should will consider the following: (1) the standard of living of the parties during the marriage; (2) the income and property distribution of the marital property of the parties; (3) the duration of the marriage; (4) the health of the parties; (5) the present and future earning capacity of both parties; (6) the ability of the party seeking maintenance to become self-sufficient; and (7) the lost or reduced lifetime earnings by the party seeking maintenance.

Armed with this information, we can explain whether a party may or may not have to pay/receive maintenance. Short duration marriages, less than 3 years rarely see a maintenance award—though not unheard of. Long term marriages, say 20 years or more, it is not uncommon to see maintenance awarded.

Taking a look at the factors listed above, I would need to know a couple of things. First how long have you been married and a financial picture of your marriage. If your spouse was making a million dollars a year and you stayed at home to raise the kids after 15 years, I would feel comfortable saying that you would be receiving maintenance. But again, it gets tricky, say you are a doctor that decided to stay home, while you most likely will receive maintenance, your duration may not be for very long because you have earning capability.

The idea of maintenance is to tide you over until you can become self-supporting. If you’re employable, you are expected to get a job. Perhaps your duration of maintenance will not be as long as say someone who did not graduate high school and has been out of the work force for 15 years.

The point to take away from this blog is that maintenance awards are left to the Court with only basic guidelines and each case will rest upon its own facts.

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