New York Court Discusses Income in the Context of Support Obligations

In New York divorce actions, the lesser-earning party will often seek spousal or child support from their spouse. The courts typically rely on income-based guidelines when evaluating such requests. In cases in which the higher-earning spouse’s income exceeds the income cap, the courts have the discretion to include income above the cap when making their decision. In doing so, however, they must consider certain factors, as discussed in a recent New York ruling. If you are interested in learning more about the economic consequences of ending your marriage, you should speak with a New York divorce attorney as soon as possible.

Procedural and Factual History

It is reported that in February 2018, the husband initiated an action for divorce. In August 2018, the court issued a temporary order that mandated the husband to cover all marriage-related expenses except for cell phone bills for the wife and their three children. The order also obliged him to pay $300 weekly as “unallocated support.” Subsequently, a parenting agreement was established in May 2019, leading to a financial hearing that month. Although the parties initially agreed on financial matters in July 2019, the wife never ratified this stipulation; as such, the financial hearing resumed in May 2021.

It is alleged that during this hearing, the parties settled on numerous issues, including maintenance and child support. The referee issued a memorandum decision post-hearing, which the court partially adopted and modified, culminating in the final judgment. The parties both appealed, asking the court to modify the awards for child support and maintenance.

Income in the Context of Support Obligations

On appeal, the court upheld the final judgment as to the spousal maintenance and child support obligations. The court explained that the 2021 maintenance cap served as the basis for determining the husband’s maintenance payment obligations. The court noted that neither the referee nor the trial court awarded maintenance exceeding the income cap, but in situations where the payor’s income surpasses this cap, the court can use its discretion to factor in the excess income.

In doing so, the court must explain the factors they considered and the rationale behind their decision. Here, as the maintenance obligation imposed fell within the statutory range, it was upheld.

Similarly, the court declined to modify the child support obligation. The court noted that this obligation fell within the statutory guidelines as well. While the trial court did not explain the reasons for not including income beyond the statutory cap, which violated the law, the court exercised its power to assume the responsibilities of the trial court and make its own findings and, in doing so, affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Seasoned New York Attorney

In divorce actions, New York courts often calculate support obligations, in part, by looking at the parties’ income, but they have the discretion to deviate from income-based guidelines in cases involving high earners. If you are considering ending your marriage, it is important to understand the legal and financial consequences of divorce, and you should speak to an attorney. Ksenia Rudyuk is a seasoned New York divorce attorney who can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can reach Ms. Rudyuk via the form online or at 212-706-2001 to set up a conference.

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