In many marriages, one spouse earns the majority of the couple’s income. As such, if a couple with dissimilar incomes decides to seek a divorce, the court may find it appropriate to grant the lesser-earning spouse maintenance. The courts do not merely rely on the parties’ assertions when considering whether to grant maintenance, and if so, in what amount, but will consider other factors as well. Recently, a New York court discussed maintenance awards in a matter in which the husband argued that the court abused its discretion in granting the wife nondurational maintenance. If you have questions regarding the financial impact of divorce, it is smart to speak to a New York divorce lawyer to address your concerns.
The Facts of the Case
It is reported that the husband and the wife married in 1985 and had four children. In November 2012, the wife instituted a divorce proceeding. When the trial was underway, the parties entered into a stipulation that resolved the issues of counsel and professional fees, separate property, and equitable distribution. The court subsequently issued a decision that imputed an annual income of $800,000 to the husband and approximately $62,000 to the wife. It also entered a judgment of divorce that incorporated the stipulation of settlement agreed upon by the husband and the wife and granted the wife nondurational maintenance in the amount of $25,000 each month for five years, then $20,000 per month for an additional five years, and then $12,000 per month until either party died or the wife remarried. Both parties appealed.
Determination of Maintenance Awards
One of the issues on appeal was whether the trial court providently exercised its discretion in granting the wife nondurational maintenance. In assessing a party’s maintenance obligation, a court does not have to rely on the party’s own report of their finances but may impute income based on established future potential earnings or past income. It may also impute income to a person based on their future earning capacity, employment history, money received from friends and family, and educational background. Continue reading