New York Court Discusses Factors Weighed in Granting Spousal Maintenance

In many marriages, one spouse will earn substantially more than the other, causing a disparity in income. Thus, in many cases in which spouses do not earn similar wages, the courts will order the higher-earning spouse to pay spousal maintenance. Recently, a New York appellate court discussed the factors weighed in determining whether maintenance should be paid, in a case in which the plaintiff alleged the trial court awarded an inappropriate amount. If you and your spouse earn unequal wages and you are considering filing for divorce, it is wise to consult a knowledgeable New York family law attorney to discuss whether a court is likely to impose a spousal maintenance obligation.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the husband and the wife married in 1986. During the course of the marriage, the husband, who is a dentist, opened a dental practice. The wife worked at the practice as a hygienist for most of the marriage. The couple also formed an LLC to purchased commercial real estate. In March 2009, however, the wife filed a divorce lawsuit. A bench trial was ultimately held on the issues of spousal maintenance and the equitable distribution of marital property. At the conclusion, the court granted the wife spousal maintenance in the amount of $50.00 per week, from the date the action was instituted until March 2014, and divided the couple’s property.

Allegedly, the wife subsequently filed a motion to set aside the parts of the court’s decision pertaining to spousal support. The court denied the motion on the grounds that the majority of the arguments in the motion relied on evidence not introduced at trial. The wife then appealed.

Spousal Maintenance Under New York Law

In New York, the duration and amount of maintenance awarded to either spouse are within the discretion of the court and must be determined based on the unique facts of the case. Courts may order maintenance if it is required to be just, in consideration of numerous factors, such as the property and income of either party, the distribution of any marital property, and the duration of the marriage. A court evaluating whether to grant spousal maintenance will also assess the health and age of the parties, whether the party seeking maintenance is able to become self-supporting, and the reduction of the lifetime earning capacity in the spouse requesting maintenance.

In the subject case, the appellate court found that the trial court improperly exercised its discretion in ruling that the wife should only be awarded $50.00 per week. Rather, based on the length of the marriage and the disparity in the husband and the wife’s incomes, the court increased the spousal maintenance obligation to $1,000.00 per week. Notably, the court stated that it did not rely on evidence that was not introduced at trial in issuing its ruling.

Consult a Seasoned Divorce Attorney

Divorce can have significant financial ramifications. If you are debating ending your marriage or you have been served with divorce papers, it in your best interest to consult a seasoned attorney regarding your case. Ksenia Rudyuk is a trusted New York family law attorney who will work diligently to help you pursue a just result. You can reach Ms. Rudyuk at 212-706-2001 or through the form online to schedule a meeting.