Maintenance, Alimony and Spousal Support

The McCarthy Fingar Team

The experienced lawyers in our Matrimonial & Family Law group navigate our clients through the complex the complex financial issues of maintenance, alimony and spousal support, whether as part of a settlement or court verdict. On this page, we provide answers to several frequently asked questions on spousal support.

Is there a difference between maintenance, alimony and spousal support?

Answer: No. Maintenance, which is also called spousal support, used to be referred to in New York State as alimony. Indeed, Internal Revenue Service still refers to it as alimony. Maintenance is the amount of money that is paid to the “non-monied” spouse (the spouse that is not the primary wage earner) for a definite period of time after a marriage ends. Either spouse, male or female, can be ordered to pay maintenance to their spouse.

Are there guidelines to determine the amount and/or duration of maintenance?

Answer: No. It is difficult to estimate how much maintenance the non-monied spouse will be awarded because the court has broad discretion in awarding maintenance. The court must consider the following factors when determining maintenance:

  • the income and property of each party at the time of marriage, and at the time of the commencement of the action;
  • the duration of the marriage and the age and health of both parties;
  • the need of a custodial parent to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own its household effects;
  • the loss of inheritance and pension rights upon dissolution of the marriage as of the date of dissolution;
  • the loss of health insurance benefits upon dissolution of the marriage;
  • any award of maintenance under subdivision six of this part;
  • any equitable claim to, interest in, or direct or indirect contribution made to the acquisition of such marital property by the party not having title, including joint efforts or expenditures and contributions and services as a spouse, parent, wage earner and homemaker, and to the career or career potential of the other party; and
  • the liquid or non-liquid character of all marital property;
  • the probable future financial circumstances of each party;
  • the impossibility or difficulty of evaluating any component asset or any interest in a business, corporation or profession, and the economic desirability of retaining such asset or interest intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party;
  • the tax consequences to each party;
  • the wasteful dissipation of assets by either spouse;
  • any transfer or encumbrance made in contemplation of a matrimonial action without fair consideration; and
  • any other factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.

How long is maintenance usually awarded for?

Answer: Maintenance may be permanent (“Nondurational”), or may be for a definite period of time (“Durational”), and continue only until the non-monied spouse is able to support himself or herself. Nondurational, or “lifetime maintenance”, may be awarded in New York where the non-monied spouse is of advanced age or has impaired health, and the supporting spouse is in a better financial condition. In contrast, where the non-monied spouse is relatively young, healthy and is not required to care for young children, durational maintenance is more commonly awarded. Nondurational or Durational maintenance awarded in a divorce action (or as a result of a separation or settlement agreement) can end upon:

  • the death of either person;
  • the remarriage of the person receiving the maintenance; or
  • upon the occurrence of any other event that is agreed upon, such as cohabitation.

If the parties are entering into a separation agreement, they have more flexibility to define the amount and duration of maintenance. Maintenance can also be secured by life insurance. If the non-monied spouse is in need of support for a certain period of time, life insurance can be used to guarantee those payments in the event of the death of the supporting spouse.

The McCarthy Fingar Approach in Spousal Support Matters

Maintenance, alimony and spousal support are often the key issues during the divorce process. It not only affects your current lifestyle but also your future lifestyle. The difficulties in calculating maintenance can be frustrating to both parties. Whether we are seeking to minimize or maximixe an award of maintenance, the lawyers in our Matrimonial & Family Law group will bring their many years of experience to develop a strategy on how the matter should go forward.

Contact Us

If you think you may require the assistance of McCarthy Fingar’s Matrimonial & Family Law group, please contact Kristen Mackay Pennessi by email ( or by phone (914-385-1033).

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