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How do courts decide who gets spousal support in a divorce?

When one spouse earns more than another, the lower-earning spouse may worry about financially supporting themselves after divorce. However, either party can request financial support from the other spouse during divorce proceedings.

Several factors impact the court’s decision when determining who provides support temporarily or maintenance for the long term.

The payor’s income affects the support determination

Courts consider several financial factors when determining who pays spousal support and maintenance. The payor, the spouse with a higher income, may need to support the lower-earning spouse, the payee. However, the payor needs to make enough money to support themselves to be liable for spousal support.

Courts consider several non-financial factors

When deciding who gets spousal support and maintenance, courts consider the following details:

  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The age of both spouses
  • Each spouse’s ability to earn income and afford to live independently

The courts consider every divorce’s unique requirements, and judges have some discretion when granting financial support.

The length of the marriages matters

New York provides guidelines for judges to use when calculating spousal support. The duration of support falls within specific ranges based on the length of the marriage. The guidelines state that courts award support for a minimum time equal to a percentage of the marriage length as follows:

  • More than 20 years – 35% to 50%
  • 16 through 20 years – 30% to 40%
  • 0 through 15 years – 15% to 30%

Death and remarriage may end support before the established timeframes.

Understanding how New York awards spousal support and spousal maintenance might encourage the lower-earning spouse to include the request for support in their divorce petition.

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