New York Court Discusses Spousal Maintenance in New York Divorce Actions

In New York divorce actions, it is not uncommon for one party to seek spousal maintenance from the other. The duration and amount of such maintenance are generally left up to the discretion of the trial court. If the trial court’s decision clearly constitutes an error, though, it may be modified on appeal, as demonstrated in a recent New York opinion issued in a dissolution case. If you intend to end your marriage, it is smart to talk to a New York divorce lawyer as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the wife filed a divorce action. The trial court subsequently ended the husband and wife’s marriage via a judgment of divorce entered in September 2019. The judgment followed a nonjury trial and included several key decisions.

Allegedly, the court awarded the wife was awarded $1,500 per month in maintenance retroactively to the date the parties executed a stipulation dividing six parcels of real property. The court also granted the wife $25,000 in counsel fees. The court did not grant the husband credits for certain pendente lite payments. Both parties appealed.

Spousal Maintenance in New York Divorce Actions

On appeal, the court modified the judgment of divorce, addressing several key points. Its analysis began with the issue of spousal maintenance, noting that the amount and duration are typically within the trial court’s discretion and are determined based on the unique facts and circumstances of each case.

Factors considered included the standard of living during the marriage, income, and property of the parties, the duration of the marriage, health, future earning capacity, and the ability of the party seeking maintenance to be self-supporting.

In the subject case, the court concluded that the trial had reasonably exercised its discretion by awarding $1,500 per month in maintenance given the lengthy marriage, the parties’ ages and health, and their respective financial conditions. However, the court found an error in the retroactive application of the maintenance award.

The court noted that case law indicates that adjustments are appropriate when a temporary maintenance award is deemed excessive or inequitable upon trial. Since the trial court’s temporary maintenance award was $2,919 per month and the permanent award was $1,500, the court decided that retroactivity should only apply to the judgment date, ensuring equitable financial management during litigation.

Thus, the court remitted the case to the trial court for calculating the exact amount of pendente lite payments exceeding $1,500 and adjusting the judgment accordingly, ensuring the husband received due credit for excess payments, in line with principles of equitable distribution and fair financial practices during the pendency of divorce proceedings.

Meet with an Experienced New York Divorce Attorney

Whether spousal maintenance should be awarded, and if so, in what amount, is a point of contention in many divorce actions. If you wish to pursue a divorce and you believe you or your spouse may seek maintenance, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. Ksenia Rudyuk is a trusted New York divorce lawyer who can assess your case and aid you in taking the actions necessary to protect your interests. You can reach Ms. Rudyuk by using our form online or by calling 212-706-2001 to arrange a conference.

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