Alimony Can Vary Depending on the Length of the Marriage

Alimony has its beginnings in gender-specific terms. Before the 1970s, divorce in the United States had to be fault-based. If the husband was to blame, he would have to pay his wife alimony – often for the rest of her life or until she remarried. During those times, women had few rights and opportunities to make a living.

Today’s alimony is much different. The concept is now gender-neutral. Spousal maintenance, as it is called in New York, is not guaranteed to either party. A judge considers many factors when determining whether to grant maintenance, how much to grant, and how long the support lasts.

The marriage’s length has a significant impact on how long one party might receive spousal maintenance.

Types of Spousal Maintenance in New York

There are three types of spousal maintenance that a court can award as part of the divorce process.

Temporary. Temporary maintenance is paid to a spouse during the divorce process. This type ends when the judge issues a final divorce order. At that time, the judge may or may not award further maintenance to continue after the divorce.

Rehabilitative. This type of alimony is usually awarded after a divorce when there is a significant difference in the income and job marketability of the two parties. The funds help support the spouse and provide them time and a financial cushion to gain the necessary skills and experience to make themselves financially self-sufficient.

Permanent. This support is granted to support one of the parties after the divorce. Judges generally only award permanent in very long marriages and the payee spouse is unable to work because of poor health or disability. This support typically doesn’t end until either spouse dies, or the receiving partner remarries or habitually lives with another partner.

The length of the marriage is evaluated in all three types of alimony.

Durational Spousal Maintenance

Rehabilitative spousal maintenance is durational, meaning the support will last for a specific amount of time.

New York courts use the following guidelines in deciding the spousal maintenance duration:

  • Marriages lasting 15 years or less: Support will last between 15% and 30% of the length of the marriage
  • Marriages lasting between 15 and 20 years: Support will last between 30% and 40% of the length of the marriage
  • Marriages lasting more than 20 years: Support will last between 35% and 50% of the length of the marriage

These guidelines are exactly that – guidelines. Other factors can persuade a judge to order longer or shorter durations than the protocols suggest. The court is required to use a statutory formula to calculate how much temporary support to award. The formula is based on the income of each party. The same equation can be used as the starting point in post-divorce awards. The judge can order more or less at their discretion.

Pesky Tax Consequences

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed how the IRS views alimony. Before Jan. 1, 2019, alimony could be deducted by the payor on their federal tax return. The person receiving those payments was required to claim those funds as income. Alimony awarded on Jan. 1, 2019, and later is no longer deductible for the payer or considered income for the payee.

Fighting for Your Interests in Spousal Maintenance Decisions

At the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC, we put our more than 75 years of collective experience to work every day for our family law clients in New York.

Our compassionate and resourceful attorneys listen to your goals and create strategies to work toward your desired outcomes.

If you have questions about spousal maintenance or any other aspect of divorce, schedule a consultation with a member of our Dutchess County team. Call (845) 605-4330 or reach out online to get started.

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