Under New York law, a spouse’s alimony obligations are determined on the basis of numerical formulas that cover both the amount of the spousal support payment and the period of time for which such payments must continue.
The amount of the spousal support payment varies depending on child support arrangements. Courts have discretion to deviate from this formula if it is found to create an unjust or inappropriate result based on certain factors. Additionally, the formula only applies to earnings up to a capped amount. As of 2020 the cap is $184,000 per annum, but this amount is subject to periodic adjustment in the future based on the Consumer Price Index. The Domestic Relations law lists the factors that a court may consider if it makes a determination that the application of the formula would be unjust or inappropriate, or if it is awarding support on income in excess of the cap.
The duration of spousal support payments is also based on a formula. In general the longer a couple has been married, the longer the alimony obligation will last. A spousal support award can be modified upon a showing that the Payee is unable to be self-supporting or that there has been a substantial change in circumstance, including financial hardship or a substantial change in financial circumstances due to the Payor’s retirement.
Courts can also award temporary maintenance during the period between the filing of a divorce proceeding and the issuance of a final divorce judgment. A mathematical formula is also applied as a guideline to determine the presumptive amount of temporary maintenance. As is the case with permanent spousal support, a court can choose not to follow the formula for temporary maintenance if the result would be unjust or inappropriate.