Nobody expects to get divorced when they first get married. The point of marriage is to spend the rest of your lives together. But sometimes relationships don’t last forever. People grow apart, or the circumstances change. Individuals who are facing an imminent divorce should have an understanding of what should be expected from the process.
There are a number of controversial issues that must be negotiated during the divorce process. You have to divide all your assets and decide who is responsible for different debts. You also have to decide on a child custody arrangement if you have children. Child custody and child support can be some of the most hotly contested parts of a divorce negotiation. Another very controversial part, though, is spousal support.
Spousal support, otherwise known as alimony, can be very varied. The laws differ slightly from state to state. Most states don’t have strict statutory circumstances laid out. Instead, the amount of spousal support is left up to the judge’s discretion. It’s the judge’s job to consider a variety of contributing factors such as your income, your spouse’s income, whether you have children, and whether maintenance payments are necessary for one spouse’s financial stability.
The goal of alimony is to assist with financial independence. In many households, one spouse is the chief breadwinner while the other either stays at home or earns significantly less. Divorce in these situations can be tricky for the partner with a lower income, as they may not have the means to cover the cost of living by themselves.
In an ideal divorce agreement, both spouses are able to lead fulfilling lives independently of each other. If one spouse has no income or way to generate income, they cannot live their life with financial independence. For this reason, the judge may mandate that their ex-spouse give them support payments to help them cover the cost of living.
This can become particularly important if one spouse is a stay-at-home parent with young children, while the other spouse is the main breadwinner for the family. The stay-at-home parent will almost always have the majority of physical custody, since they’ve taken on most of the child-rearing responsibilities in the marriage.
If the stay-at-home spouse wishes to continue raising their children, they need financial support. They cannot get this if they live independently, unless they get a job. Getting a job means spending more time away from the children, which in turn means sacrificing a certain level of their care.
In these cases, it’s very common for a judge to order both spousal support and child support. Child support payments are meant to cover the cost of each child in a marriage. They’re the way that a non-custodial parent fulfills their financial obligation to their child. Spousal support payments cover the spouse’s basic cost of living.
The determination of spousal support payments is a typical part of a divorce negotiation. You and your spouse may be able to come to an agreement as part of a settlement. However, if you’re not able to reach an agreement, you’ll need to bring the case before a judge.
The judge will first determine whether there’s any obligation for support to be paid. Typically, support payments are awarded when one spouse makes significantly more than the other. The higher-earning spouse will need to pay the lower-earning spouse enough money for them to maintain their standard of living.
One of the first things the judge will do is calculate net income figures for both spouses. This means combining all gross income sources such as earned wages, earned interest on investments, rent payments for physical properties, and public benefits. After the gross total is found, deductions like healthcare and income taxes will be removed. The remaining total is the net amount of money you have access to each year.
In New York, state statutes outline a formula for the court to use. This allows an exact amount for the maintenance to be calculated.
The next thing to determine is how long the maintenance payments must continue. Some spousal payments are awarded temporarily. This most often occurs when the divorce has not yet been finalized, so the lower-income spouse can live independently during the proceedings. Long-term payments are a common stipulation of a finalized divorce. You might also have an agreement to pay periodically or in a lump sum.
If circumstances change, a judge may adjust the spousal payments. Significant changes include a child moving out of the house, a higher-income spouse losing a job, or a lower-income spouse gaining new income.
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