Would it surprise you to learn that couples who have divorced in New York over the last thirty years don’t pay alimony? Well it probably surprises those couples too, since it’s still common for one spouse to send monthly payments to the other. Technically New York State spousal support is called “maintenance” rather than “alimony”. Is there a difference? Yes.
Alimony was based on the outdated assumption that women are incapable of surviving without a man to support them. It was also seen as a punishment to the husband for not taking care of his marital obligations. This changed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled an Alabama alimony law that penalized only husbands was unconstitutional. The New York Domestic Relations Law was amended in 1980 and 1986 to create a different kind of support that was called “maintenance” instead of “alimony”.
The New York spousal maintenance formula looks at payments with a different philosophy than in the past. An important factor is the independence of each spouse after the divorce. Since two-career couples are common, it is more likely that each spouse will be capable of self-support. However if one spouse has shouldered the bulk of domestic duties at the cost of career opportunities, then maintenance is appropriate to allow the less-moneyed spouse some time to pursue opportunities to become independent.
The NY spousal maintenance worksheet is designed to determine a fair amount to give the poorer spouse the ability to maintain a similar standard of living as before while pursuing other opportunities. That leads to another change in philosophy: alimony was typically permanent, or at least until the recipient got remarried, while maintenance is often awarded only for a limited time period.
The payment formulas are different than they were prior to 1980. The way payments are viewed by judges and lawyers are different. And yet, to be fair, divorcing couples probably don’t see much of a distinction. It probably doesn’t make it any easier to write that check every month knowing it’s maintenance rather than alimony. However it is a fairer, non-sexist way to view post-divorce financial obligations that is better for both parties than alimony was.
Whether you call it maintenance or alimony, Easy Soft’s New York divorce software calculates it right. If the New York Domestic Relations Law is amended in the future, we will update our law office management software to reflect the new changes. Download a demo of EzSupport-NY to see how easy it is to calculate spousal maintenance and child support for your clients.