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When is Spousal Maintenance Appropriate?

When you’re stuck in a marriage you no longer want to be in, it can be easy to feel trapped, especially if your spouse is the primary breadwinner for your family. Even when divorce seems like a reasonable choice from an emotional standpoint, the potential expenses (such as legal fees), on top of the loss of shared income and marital property, can be a massive deterrent against seeking separation from your partner.  This is exactly why the law of equitable distribution, child support and spousal maintenance were created.


Spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as spousal support or alimony, is a payment that a judge can award to the spouse with a lower or no income, in order to help them maintain the same standard of living they had when they were still married. This is separate from any distribution of marital property, as well as separate from any child support that may be awarded. The reason a judge may award spousal support is simple: so that the partner in a relationship who makes more money can’t use the threat of lost income as a way of coercing the lower-income partner into staying in the relationship against their will. Spousal support agreements will generally have a clause that indicates that the payment will end after a certain period, or when the spouse receiving the payments remarries.

Spousal support is generally only awarded when there is a significant disparity between the income of the two divorcing spouses, for example, when one spouse earns an income and the other is a stay-at-home parent or homemaker. Even then, a judge may determine spousal support inappropriate based on other costs or payments associated with the divorce, such as if child support has already been assigned. The terms of a pre-existing agreement, such as a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement, can also affect whether spousal support is ultimately awarded.

Speaking with an attorney who is experienced in divorce matters can help analyze your plan and help you prepare best for what’s to come.  An attorney may be able to assess your needs and goals and work to get your life back on track.  Also, with divorce mediation or negotiation, many of these concerns can be worked out between the spouses. If you are facing a divorce, it is best to contact an experienced divorce and family law attorney. The skilled attorneys at Fig Law, P.L.L.C. can help you through this trying time. We are conveniently located at 982 Montauk Highway, Suite 6, Bayport, NY 11782. To schedule a consultation, call our office at office or fill out our contact form.

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