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New York Durational Alimony Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is durational alimony?

A. In New York, durational alimony is post-divorce alimony that is granted for a set duration of time. Alimony is only awarded in 10% of the cases today, and normally it is durational alimony rather than non-durational or permanent alimony. Permanent alimony is only awarded in very specific circumstances.

Q. Who can get durational alimony?

A. A court must establish whether alimony will be paid, who will receive it, the amount and the duration. It is not gender-specific, but is based on the circumstances of the couple.

Q. What is the length of time of alimony?

A. Domestic Relations Law 236B(6)(f) provides a noncompulsory advisory schedule a judge may start with to calculate the duration for which alimony should be awarded. Judges are not obliged to use this, and even if they do, they are expected to consider other factors laid out by statute. The advisory schedule gives judges guidelines that suggest a percentage of the time couples were married as a duration for alimony.

  • Time the couple were married
  • 0 - 15 years
  • 15 - 20 years
  • Over 20 years
  • Duration of suggested alimony
  • 15% - 30% of the time couple were married
  • 30% - 40% of the time couple were married
  • 35% - 50% of the time couple were married

A judge may use the advisory schedule in their own discretion. But even if they do use it, they are expected to look at other factors that are laid out in the New York domestic relations law. Factors a judge may consider include loss of earning capacity due to dedication of a spouse to the home, standard of living during the marriage, a spouse’s actions that wastes marital assets, contributions of the payee spouse to the career of the payer spouse, retirement assets that might produce income, one spouse hindering the other’s earning capacity, age, health, tax issues and other factors the court considers “just and proper”.

Q. Is New York durational alimony different from durational spousal maintenance?

A. They are the same thing. The statutes refer to “spousal maintenance,” but people often use the term “alimony”.

Q. How long do you have to be married to get durational alimony?

A. There is no set time you must be married in order to be awarded durational alimony, but the court will take the length of the marriage and any time you may have lived together before marriage into account when determining the duration of the alimony.

Q. Will the judge follow the terms of my prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in determining durational alimony?

A. When a couple has a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the judge will normally follow the terms it dictates for amount and duration of alimony. However, there are exceptions. If a party challenges the agreement for legal reasons such as fraud or coercion and wins, the agreement may be disregarded. Also, if following the agreement would cause a very unfair result, the judge can decide to ignore the agreement.

Q. Can a durational alimony award in New York be modified later?

A. Yes, durational alimony may be modified later if there is an extreme change of circumstances.

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