Determining Spousal Maintenance in New York Divorces Cases Involving High-Income Earners

Following a New York divorce, the judge presiding over the case may require one of the parties to provide regular spousal maintenance payments to the other party. These payments – known as maintenance in New York but commonly called alimony – are calculated according to a specific formula laid out in New York Domestic Relations Law section 236(B)(6). Spousal maintenance may be ordered for a specific period of time, or, in rare circumstances, it may be ordered for the lifetime of the receiving spouse.  There are presumptive guidelines for the amount and duration of maintenance based on incomes and length of the marriage.

YachtWhile spousal maintenance payments are primarily determined by the formula contained in section 236(B), there is a fair amount of judicial discretion in divorces with high-income earning spouses. As a general matter, New York law imposes an income cap when determining the appropriate amount of spousal maintenance. Back when the New York Domestic Relations Law was rewritten, the income cap was set at $175,000. However, the income cap increases incrementally year-over-year according to the consumer price index. The current New York spousal maintenance income cap is $184,000.

If a party to a New York divorce earns above the current income cap, the judge will apply the formula in section 236(B)(6) to determine the amount of spousal maintenance up to the income cap. However, a judge may exercise her discretion in ordering additional spousal maintenance by taking into account the party’s income in excess of the cap.

Section 236(B)(6) also discusses the appropriate factors a judge should take into account when ordering spousal maintenance for income in excess of the cap. Some of the factors the court will consider are:

  • The age and health of the parties;
  • The present or future earning capacity of the parties;
  • The need for either party to obtain job-training or education;
  • The availability and cost of medical insurance;
  • The standard of living each of the parties established during the marriage;
  • The homemaking, parenting, and income earning contributions of the receiving spouse;
  • The reduced earning capacity the receiving spouse experienced as a result of foregoing career-advancement and education for the benefit of the marriage; and
  • The care of step-children, elderly parents, or disabled adult children that may impact a party’s earning potential.

After making its decision, the court is required to document the factors it relied on when ordering spousal maintenance in excess of the income cap.

Are You Going Through a New York Divorce?

If you are currently going through a New York divorce, or are contemplating filing for divorce in New York, it is important that you have an understanding of the process and an idea of what to expect. The reality is that even separations that start out amicably can break down when it comes to child custody and the division of assets. Attorney Darren M. Shapiro is a dedicated Long Island family law attorney with decades of experience handling even the most complex New York divorce cases. Attorney Shapiro handles high net-worth divorces and is keenly aware of the attendant issues that arise in these cases. To learn more, call 516-333-6555 to schedule a consultation with Attorney Shapiro today.

More Blog Posts:

Can a New York Family Court Judge Order Grandparent Visitation?, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, May 31, 2018

Grandparent Visitation in New York: Do a Child’s Expressed Desires Weigh into the Court’s Decision?, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, June 12, 2018