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New York Alimony Modifications

Many divorces in New York include an order that one former spouse pay the other former spouse alimony. The amount of alimony and which spouse will be required to pay is based on factors enumerated in New York family law. Alimony can be permanent or durational. With permanent alimony the supporting spouse is ordered to pay the dependent spouse alimony until the dependent spouse dies or remarries. With durational alimony the divorce order provides a fixed period of time that alimony must be paid; when that time ends alimony payments are no longer required. However, what happens if there is a change in the supporting spouse’s financial circumstances so that he or she is no longer able to pay alimony? There are often changes in the circumstances of a divorced couple such that changes in the alimony order, the child custody agreement, or a change in the child support order would make sense. If circumstances have changed for you or your former spouse such that an alimony modification is under consideration, it is important that you contact an experienced New York alimony modifications lawyer who will explain to you the factors the court may consider in determining whether or not a modification is legally justified and who will help ensure that any support order issued is both consistent with New York Domestic Relations law as well as your financial situation.

How does a court determine whether a spouse should pay alimony?

In a divorce proceeding either party may request alimony. The court will determine which spouse, if either, will be required to pay (supporting spouse) the other spouse (dependent spouse). Under New York Domestic Relations Law article 13, section 236, a court may order support payments. While historically the wife is generally the spouse who receives support, the determination is not made based on gender. The judge will take into consideration a number of factors including the length of the marriage and the ability of each spouse to be self-supporting.

A support order can direct a single lump sum payment or a serious of payments. The order may require that payments be made for a fixed duration, or that they be permanent. Furthermore, the payment of support may be ordered even if the couple still resides in the same residence. The order directing a spouse to pay alimony may be made in the final divorce judgment or in one or more orders made prior to the final judgment.

At any time after an order is entered directing a spouse to pay support, either spouse can file a petition requesting that modification to the order.

What are the common reasons that an alimony order may be changed?

Under New York law certain changes in either party’s financial, medical or personal circumstance may be grounds for an increase, decrease or cessation of alimony payments.

  • An increase or decrease in the supporting spouse's income (a voluntary decrease in the supporting spouse’s income is not usually grounds for an alimony modification)
  • An increase or decrease in the dependent spouse’s income
  • An increase in the cost of living
  • A disability or illness that affects either spouse
  • A financial emergency that affects either spouse
  • The dependent spouse's cohabitation with another person
  • The remarriage of dependent spouse
  • Retirement

In addition, any other change in circumstances that creates a financial hardship on either spouse may be cause for a change the amount of support payments.

For example, in the case of Dinozzi v. Dinozzi, 2015 NY Slip Op 51828(U) (N.Y. Sup. Ct., 2015), the Mr. Dinozzi sought an Order reducing his spousal maintenance obligations on the grounds that his income had declined by 40%. At the time of the couple’s 2008 divorce, Mr. Dinozzi’s salary was $135,000, and in 2009 it was $155,000. However, it decreased in 2011 and to $110,523.00 and to $86,848 in 2013. Despite his efforts to increase his income, in 2013 Mr. Dinozzi fell behind in both this spousal maintenance and child support payments. At the hearing Mrs. Dinozzi did not offer any evidence to show her current expenses or needs. Thus, the court ordered that the portion of the Judgment of Divorce awarding Defendant spousal maintenance be terminated effective January 9, 2015.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Petitioning the court for a upwards or downwards change in a support order is complicated and technical. Just because your income or the income of your former spouse increased or decreased does not necessarily mean that a modification will be approved. There are many factors that a judge will consider. It is important that you have experienced representation when requesting a modification or responding to a request for a modification. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully representing clients New York Supreme Court and Family Court who are seeking spousal support or maintenance, or who are seeking modifications to support orders. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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My ex-husband hadn't paid child support or the mortgage on the house as he was supposed to. Stephen Bilkis and his team of lawyers were amazing. They stopped the foreclosure on the house, Got a judgment against him and most importantly kept me and my children in the house. Can't say enough good things about him in the firm their compassion hard work and dedication were exceptional. I.G.
From the very first phone call to Stephen Bilkis' office, the staff was extremely polite and helpful in assisting me. Mr. Bilkis was honest and upfront with me from the beginning in what he projected the outcome of my case would be; in the end we got better results than either of us anticipated. He was very genuine and compassionate in understanding my situation and how this legal matter could effect not only myself but my family as well. I highly recommend this law firm and will most definitely continue using them for any future legal needs. Jarrett
Stephen has handled numerous estate matters, criminal matters and family court matters effectively and with a goal-oriented approach. He gets great results and is a results-oriented attorney. Dustin