Also referred to as alimony or spousal support in some states, maintenance is the financial support that one spouse gives the other when their individual incomes have a significant disparity. Maintenance is aimed at enabling the receiving spouse to achieve financial independence after a divorce.
In New York, Divorcing couples who opt for traditional divorce litigation have no control of maintenance award and instead are limited to amounts that that state guidelines dictate. While maintenance guidelines are meant to make calculations of maintenance simpler, the standard calculation formulas are not as straightforward as they seem since awarding maintenance calls for a number of factors to be considered.
However, if a family chooses divorce mediation over traditional litigation in New York, the spouse gets the freedom to negotiate maintenance on their own without being bound by state guidelines.
<h2>New York Maintenance Overview<h2>
In 2015, the legislature brought into law formula guidelines which are applied universally to maintenance awards brought through the court, starting from 25th January 2016.
This enactment is based on the broad and in most cases confusing “income” definition that encompasses all kinds of direct and indirect income. The formula guidelines are only applicable to the income of the payor, up to a cap of $184,000. If the income of the payor is passed this amount, the court can award higher maintenance amounts when several statutory factors are considered. Hence, predicting the amount the court will determine for maintenance becomes harder if the income is more than $184,000 cap. Besides, courts have the discretion to deviate from Maintenance award formula guidelines if they feel that the result would be “inappropriate and unjust”.
Maintenance is terminated automatically upon the death of either party or once the person receiving award or maintenance remarries. If none of these happens, the court may consider:
- A permanent maintenance advisory schedule depending on the length of time the couple has been married, or…
- Decide to completely ignore the advisory schedule or grant an award which is non-durational, ending upon remarriage or death of the payee.
You can get a rough estimate of how your case’s maintenance may be calculated on the online calculator of NYC’s Unified Court system.
Remember that if child support is included, state law will call for maintenance calculation before calculating child support.
Why You Should Agree to Maintenance During Mediation
Although standard guidelines consider several factors when making calculations, some important factors, values, unique needs, and family considerations end up being adequately represented.
On the other hand, Parties that decide to privately agree on maintenance during divorce mediation may freely decide whether maintenance is necessary in their case or not. If necessary, they can determine the suitable amounts and applicable duration. The state law does not obligate parties that get into a mediation agreement to apply those guidelines or show the manner in which they arrived into their decision.
Divorce mediation will allow your family to make decisions in a way that works for both parties, and one that addresses the unique needs of your family.