It is critical to position a spousal support, or maintenance case (or alimony as it is known in other states)  properly from the inception of the process, and to marshal early on all facts and proofs conducive to meeting the client’s objectives. In New York, maintenance can be a significant financial component of any divorce case.  State law recognizes a variety of potential support mechanisms designed to ensure the maintenance of the other spouse in appropriate cases.  These generally include pendente lite support awards designed to maintain the status quo during the pendency of the divorce action as well as permanent maintenance awards once the divorce is granted.Maintenance in New York is a periodic payment made to a spouse by the other spouse for his or her support. If it is made during an action for divorce, it is called temporary maintenance, and if it is made after the divorce, it can be referred to as final maintenance. In all cases, maintenance will terminate upon death or remarriage, unless the parties agree otherwise in a written settlement agreement.Since 1980, in appropriate cases courts have awarded rehabilitative maintenance, designed to enable the dependant spouse to become financially independent. The emphasis on rehabilitation means that awards are generally limited to a number of years starting on the date the divorce judgment is issued.Typically, Courts grant maintenance to the lower-earning spouse only in cases where there is a substantial difference between the incomes of the parties.


A relatively recent change in New York law requires a the plication of a formula to determine the amount that should be paid for temporary maintenance.
The new temporary maintenance law creates a presumptively correct amount of temporary maintenance derived by mathematical formula. Of course, temporary maintenance ends when the judgment of divorce is granted, so it ultimately is of limited consequence to the support needs of the dependent spouse in the long term.  Moreover, the statutory presumption can be defeated in any given case where one or more statutory factors is applicable because the court finds it to be “unjust or inappropriate.” These factors, if applied appropriately, could cause the presumptively correct amount to be reduced or increased.  Here the aid of an experienced attorney will be invaluable.

“Pendente Lite Maintenance” and “Temporary Maintenance” are interchangeable terms which refer to an award of temporary spousal support after a complaint for divorce is filed and before a divorce judgment is entered.  It is meant to allow the receiving spouse to receive support until a final determination as to maintenance is made. Under the revised DRL 236 (B)(5-a), duration and termination events are specifically listed in subsections (f) and (g).

In 2015, DRL 236 (B)(5-a) was amended significantly.

Temporary maintenance can only be awarded when requested by a party during the divorce action. Its duration can be set by the court to terminate prior to a final order and terminates automatically upon the death of either spouse or the issuance of the final judgment.


A final award of maintenance starts once a divorce judgment is entered and is fixed using the formulas and guidelines set forth DRL 236 (B)(6). Such final orders will either made for a fixed amount of time, called durational maintenance, or for the lifetime of the recipient spouse and called non-durational maintenance.

The court may deviate from the guidelines if it finds the guidelines unjust or inappropriate, but is required to state the reasons for making this determination.

The duration of maintenance is also based upon a non-mandatory advisory schedule.

  • For a marriage of 0 to 15 years: 15% to 30% of the length of the marriage
  • For a marriage over 15 years to 20 years: 30% to 40% of the length of marriage
  • For a marriage over 20 years: 35% to 50% of the length of marriage

The court is expressly authorized to award lifetime (or non-durational) maintenance in an appropriate case.

Overall, all maintenance issues should be tackled early in the litigation to maximize the chances for achieving the client’s objectives.  In appropriate cases, attorneys will retain employability experts who, for example, may provide testimony regarding imputation of income to deliberately underemployed or unemployed spouses, who in reality should not be seeking maintenance, but do so nevertheless.  Such experts may also prove instrumental in convincing the court that the paying spouse should be earning substantially higher wages than he or she claims to be earning, nd that therefore his or her support responsibility should be greater.



In New York, child support is determined according to a formula based on the combined incomes of both parents.  When that total figure is less than $141,000 a year, the court will multiply the income by a percentage (for example, 17% for once child and 25% for two children).  Each parent will be responsible for a percentage of that number.  For combined incomes which exceed $141,000 a year, courts can use the same formula or calculate an additional payment over the formula-based computation, based on the child’s actual needs. 

All payments received by the parents, other than state aid, are considered income, including unemployment compensation, dividends, workers compensation benefits, pension and disability pay, etc.  

Child support awards may be modified based on changes in circumstances, at any time.

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