If one person is seeking alimony (“maintenance” under New York law) as they divorce, it’s typically best when spouses can agree on an amount, duration and other details on their own, with their legal representatives. In many cases, that’s not possible.
Then a judge has to decide the matter based on each person’s financial situation and a number of other factors outlined in state law. These include things like the length of the marriage, the ability of the presumed recipient of the maintenance to support themselves and the “standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.”
If you’re the one seeking alimony (or at least considering it), it’s important to understand that you may be able to ask for an amount – assuming your ex can afford it – that will let you continue something close to that standard of living. You may be able to support yourself on your own income. However, if your ex has a considerably higher income that will let them continue the lifestyle the two of you had for many years while you’re pinching pennies, that’s something a judge can consider.
What if you had an artificial standard of living?
Divorce has a way of bringing financial secrets to light. What if that standard of living you enjoyed was built on a mountain of debt? If that’s the case, a judge isn’t going to perpetuate that debt cycle by awarding alimony based on that artificial standard of living.
Conversely, however, if your spouse was squirreling away money while the two of you lived a modest lifestyle, you can seek alimony based on what they actually have even if it affords you a lifestyle better than what you are used to.
Either way, this is one reason why it’s crucial (and required by law) for both spouses to provide thorough and accurate information about their finances in the divorce. If you suspect your spouse isn’t doing that, it may be necessary to bring in a forensic accountant. Having sound legal guidance can also help you get the support you’re seeking.