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Spousal Maintenance Payments in New York, and How to Collect Missed Payments

May 14, 2018

When a divorce proceeding occurs, oftentimes one spouse will make payments to the other not just during the proceeding itself, but also after the divorce has been finalized. These payments will be made on either a permanent or a semi-permanent basis. The payments are referred to as spousal maintenance. When payments are made in the midst of the divorce proceeding, these are referred to as temporary support payments; payments made after the finalization of the divorce are referred to as post-divorce payments. Spousal maintenance is used to benefit the spouse receiving the payments. It is different from child support payments, which are used to benefit any children.

How the State of New York Determines Spousal Maintenance Payments

The New York state legislature recently passed a new law which changes the ways in which spousal maintenance payment is calculated. According to the new law, in cases where agreements cannot be made between the involved parties and their attorneys, the judge in charge of the divorce case will use a formula for the calculation of both post-divorce payments and temporary support payments. The same predetermined formula can be applied to proceedings related to spousal support in the family court. While the mathematical formula is too complex for most laymen to parse, it does take into account the following factors:

  • If the payor spouse is responsible for any child support payments
  • The payor spouse’s total income or $175,000 if the payor spouse’s total income exceeds $175,000
  • Whether or not the parties both entered into a legally binding written contract regarding how spousal maintenance payments are determined
  • The length of the marriage

After the formula has been used, the state courts are allowed to deviate from the numbers provided. That said, they are legally required to use the formula’s calculation as a baseline for determining what payment amounts are appropriate.

Missed Support Payments

After the court makes the determination that one party is responsible for maintenance payments to the other party, this creates a legally binding obligation for the paying spouse to adhere to the payment schedule determined by the court. Sometimes the paying spouse will fail to make the appropriate payments on time. This can cause an undue burden to the receiving space, who has a legal entitlement to the payments. In these circumstances, the receiving spouse may go through the courts to receive assistance in the acquisition of their missed payments. New York state law does have a stipulation that the payee spouse needs to file their claim within twenty years of the missed payment. If a spouse attempts to file their claim more than twenty years after the payment was missed, they will no longer have the right to seek the balance.

If you are meant to receive spousal maintenance, and your spouse has missed paying the benefits according to the predetermined court schedule, you should get in contact with an attorney. We are a group of New York lawyerswho specialize in the litigation of divorces. Your attorney can help you with the process of filing a complaint for the missed spousal payments. The following steps might be required:

  • Get the court order for spousal support by having your divorce attorney file the support agreement; spousal support agreements must be officially filed with the court prior to divorce to have legal recourse if a spouse fails to make payments
  • Ask for your spouse to be held in contempt of court; a court order will force your ex-spouse to pay their court-ordered support, and they can go to jail or face fines if they fail to make their payments
  • Invest in disability insurance to be sure that you will continue receiving spousal support payments even if your ex-spouse becomes unable to work due to illness or injury
  • Have the court require spousal maintenance to be deducted from your ex-spouse’s paychecks before they reach them; this will involve sending notice of the spousal support payments to your ex-spouse’s employer

You might not be able to do that last step if your spouse is self-employed or otherwise doesn’t have an official employer who provides their paychecks. That said, self-employed spouses can still be compelled to make their payments by court order. If your ex-spouse finds themselves in a financial position that prohibits them from making their support payments, they will be required to renegotiate the payments with the court. Multiple factors will be considered in this renegotiation including your own need for the money, the changed income or savings of your spouse, and the length and amount of money that the original agreement was for.

How Long Will Support Payments Last?

As previously mentioned, spousal support following a divorce proceeding tends to last for a permanent or semi-permanent basis. The court will determine the schedule during which the payments must be made. Oftentimes, spousal support is awarded on a “rehabilitative” basis, which means that it is meant to continue for the length of time necessary for the receiving spouse to receive job training and then to receive a job in their field. It’s possible that payments will continue if the job that the payee spouse receives does not pay high enough wages for the payee to become self-supporting without the additional income provided by the paying spouse’s payments.

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