The traditional name for support paid by one former spouse to another during or after divorce is “alimony.” Some states refer to these payments as “spousal support.” New York, however, refers to them as “maintenance.”
In New York, either spouse may seek maintenance. However, maintenance awards are not appropriate in all divorces.
A maintenance award in New York may be for either “temporary” or “post-divorce” maintenance. A temporary maintenance award is paid by one spouse to the other through the divorce proceedings. A post-divorce maintenance award is paid by one spouse to the other after the divorce is complete.
A court that makes a determination for maintenance first decides whether one of the spouses is entitled to maintenance. If so, the court then decides how long maintenance must be paid and what amount must be paid.
Maintenance is most often ordered in situations where one spouse has been the primary breadwinner, and the other has focused on homemaking or other projects. When these spouses separate, the spouse who lacks a work history may have difficulty paying for his or her own basic needs for a period of time.
Traditionally, New York courts set maintenance at an amount that would allow the lower-earning spouse to maintain the standard of living he or she enjoyed during the marriage. Today, however, courts are more concerned with providing enough support for the lower-earning spouse to meet his or her basic needs while seeking the education or employment needed for the spouse to support himself or herself.
Maintenance awards are made separately from any awards of child support. An award of child support is based on the needs of the child, not the parent who has custody. An experienced New York divorce attorney can help you determine what kinds of support are appropriate in your divorce and defend your rights while support decisions are being made.