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Understanding Spousal Maintenance for Cases Featuring High-Income Earners

Man over dollarsThere are many different issues to think about during the divorce process, which is one of the things that makes the end of a marriage so complicated and difficult to handle. Aside from the emotional distress that comes with the dissolution of a relationship, people going through a divorce must also consider things like equitable distribution, child custody and visitation, and even maintenance. As a divorce attorney for residents of New York and Long Island, Attorney Darren Shapiro has numerous years of experience dealing with the complexity that can arise during these cases.

In many instances, the judge presiding over a New York divorce case may require a party to provide regular maintenance payments to their ex-spouse, to help that individual make the transition into single life. In New York, the payments are called "Maintenance," but elsewhere, you may refer to them as alimony. Maintenance payments are calculated according to a specific formula used by section 236(B)(6) of New York Domestic Relations law. This guidance is very helpful for courts and lawyers when it comes to making critical decisions about how much support a spouse should receive after a divorce. In some cases, spousal maintenance is ordered for a specific period of time. In other, very rare instances, it's possible for spousal support to continue for the rest of the receiving spouse's lifetime.

Calculating Spousal Maintenance for High-Income Earners

As Mr. Shapiro informs his clients, spousal maintenance payments are generally determined by the formula issued by section 236(B). However, that doesn't mean that the judges in a divorce case don't have some room to make their own decisions. Indeed, the judicial discretion allowed in New York family law is what makes working with an experienced divorce attorney so important. In cases involving high-income generating spouses, there is a particularly high amount of judicial discretion allowed. The New Your Court, however, imposes an income cap when determining how much spousal maintenance should be provided. When the Domestic Relations law was first written, the cap was set at $175,000. Now, the cap increases each year according to the changes in the consumer price index.

Currently, at the time of this writing, the spousal maintenance cap is set at $184,000. The question is, what happens if someone in a New York divorce earns more than this income cap? Generally, in these cases, the judge will apply the formula in the section 236(b) guidelines mentioned above to the situation to determine how much spousal maintenance should be provided. However, judges can exercise their discretion in ordering further maintenance according to their knowledge of the spouse's income. Fortunately, Section 236(B)(6) in domestic law also provides some guidance for the kinds of factors a judge can consider when ordering maintenance for those who have an income higher than the standard cap. Factors to be considered include:

  • The earning abilities of the parties (present and future)
  • The health and age of both parties
  • The need for additional education or job training for the spouses
  • The cost and availability of medical insurance
  • The income earning contributions, homemaking and parenting contributions for each spouse
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The reduced earning capacity of a spouse if they gave up opportunities for the benefit of the marriage
  • The care of elderly parents, disabled adult children, and stepchildren.
Making Decisions About Spousal Maintenance

As a divorce lawyer, Mr. Shapiro is on hand to help people throughout New York and Long Island ensure that they have the best possible chance of getting the right results from their spousal maintenance cases. Mr. Shapiro can offer guidance and assistance throughout both litigation cases, and mediation cases that may be approved and overseen by the courts. Importantly, when a decision is made by the New York Courts, they will be asked to document each factor that was considered when spousal maintenance was ordered. This will help in the future if changes need to be made to the maintenance order because of a significant change in the circumstances of either party.

For those approaching divorce, it's important to make sure that you have the right guidance and support to take you through the complexity of understanding everything from equitable distribution to spousal maintenance. Whether you exceed the income cap or not, it's critical to know what might occur during a case regarding maintenance. Divorce attorney Darren Shapiro is on hand to help, as a dedicated New York and long island divorce lawyer.

To discuss the nature of your case further or arrange your free initial consultation of up to 30 minutes with Attorney Shapiro, please get in touch at your convenience. You can contact the team via our online contact form, or over the phone at (516) 333-6555.

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