Spousal support has a bad reputation. People often assume it is unfairly tipped in favor of one person or another. Since support is court-ordered, the paying spouse sometimes believes they are forced into it.
If you are worried about paying spousal support, your opinions may match those outlined above. However, you might be the party that will need support after a divorce. For you, your concerns go in a different direction. You may be concerned about whether you will be left destitute. Even if you’re certain you’ll receive support, you may be scared it won’t be enough.
In this article, we will attempt to assuage the fears of both parties. When handled correctly, support can be surprisingly fair for both the giver and receiver. New York uses specific formulas to calculate spousal support. After applying this equation, it can add or reduce the level of support based on various other factors.
Before beginning its calculations, the court reviews several factors. First, it totals the combined incomes of both parties. A good spousal support order doesn’t put full responsibility on one person. It assumes that the receiving party contributes to their own wellbeing, too. Also, state law caps the supporting spouse’s income at $184,000. Even if they make more than that, all calculations will end at that maximum.
Along with combining incomes, it also considers whether the supporting spouse is also paying child support. Presumably, the custodial parent is using part of their income on the kids. If the children are receiving child support, it could mean that the custodial parent will receive less spousal support.
After adding incomes and deducting child support, the state uses one of the following formulas:
- It deducts 25% of the giver’s income from 20% of the receiver’s income.
- It deducts 20% of the receiver’s income from 30% of the giver’s income.
- It multiplies the combined income of both parties by 40%. Afterward, it deducts the receiver’s income from that amount.
The court should go with the formula that produces the lowest number. That number is the annual level of support that the giver owes the receiver. It can be split into weekly, monthly, or other such payments.
Given the information above, you should have a good baseline for what to expect in giving or receiving spousal support. However, other factors can influence the total.
Adding to and Subtracting from the Total Amount
In New York, judges have wide authority to add to or subtract from the value calculated. Unfortunately, these decisions are out of your hands. They rely solely on what the judge believes is fair. This is why you need a good lawyer on your side, to help argue in your favor.
Here are some other factors the court can consider when ruling on support.
The Continued Income of Each Spouse
Income is part of the initial support decision, but it doesn’t account for the future. Even when receiving support, someone may not make enough to live comfortably.
Potential income is also considered. Imagine the receiving spouse is about to earn their degree, increasing their earning potential. This could have a direct impact on the support they receive. At its best, spousal support should keep someone afloat until they can support themselves. The court considers their ability to do so in the future and adjust its ruling accordingly.
Dividing property and ruling on support are separate processes. New York courts split property based on equity, or what they believe is fair. After this division, one party could still be left with little to support themselves.
How Long the Marriage Lasted
By law, a married couple is a family. It is assumed that each party is contributing to the overall family unit. Simply by being married to someone for a long time, a receiver could be entitled to a greater amount of support.
Each Spouse’s Age and Health
Spousal support, by its very nature, is designed to keep someone fed after the divorce. If either party is too elderly or too infirm to support themselves, they may need continued, substantial spousal support to survive. This standard can apply to either physical or mental health.
Someone Else in the Home Requires Help
The receiving spouse could be caring for someone else. This dependant could be disabled or even incapacitated. When this is the case, the receiver may need a greater portion of spousal support.
Contribution to the Marriage
Courts want to know how each spouse got where they are in life. One partner may own a successful business, but the other may have helped build it. Perhaps they supported the business owner through unemployment and continued education. Without the support of their spouse, the business owner would have created the success they now enjoy. A court considers such contributions when determining spousal support.
Evidence of Abuse
If the court believes that one partner was abused, it may grant them a greater amount of support. Like a civil court ruling, this money is meant to compensate them for their suffering. The court also recognizes how abuse impacts someone pragmatically. For example, the abuser may have squandered the income or savings of the home. Perhaps the abuse itself hindered the abused spouse’s employment, creating a greater need for support.
Talk to an Attorney
If you’re concerned about spousal support as either the giver or receiver, speak with an attorney. Tell them your situation in detail, and let them begin work on a plan for you. A skilled lawyer can make a case for fair payments that benefit everyone.
Keep in mind, support decisions can be altered. If either party experiences a significant life event, their payments can change. Such events include a remarriage, the birth of a baby, gaining or losing employment, and so on. Support changes can affect either party. For example, if the receiving spouse starts a new, high-paying career, they will need less support. Alternatively, the paying spouse could get laid off, affecting their ability to pay. In events such as these, you will need the help of a skilled attorney to plea for a support modification, overseeing and shepherding the process.
If you have questions or concerns about spousal support, contact our office for a free consultation. We may be able to help guide your next steps. Our number is (914) 752-5333, and you can reach us online.