Years ago, spousal support was called alimony.  Today, the term maintenance is used interchangeably with spousal support.  The policy behind an award of maintenance is to rehabilitate the non-monied spouse so that he or she is able to enter the workforce and become self supporting.  Sometimes, this may require time to re-educate or gain necessary job skills through training or other means.  

Spousal support is often awarded on a temporary basis during a matrimonial case.  In 2010, the New York legislature passed a new temporary maintenance law that includes a calculator that computes a temporary maintenance award.  However, despite the precision of the calculator, the Court is then given 17 factors to consider in order to adjust the award if it appears to be unjust or inappropriate.  

There is no such calculator or exact formula used to determine permanent maintenance at the conclusion of a divorce case.  Instead, there are a list of eleven factors that a Court may consider to determine both the amount and duration of maintenance.  If a Court determines that a spouse is unlikely to ever be self supporting, whether because of the party’s age, health or other criteria, then the Court may award non-durational, or lifetime maintenance.  

Spousal support is not strictly limited to divorce actions.  A spouse may petition for spousal support in the Family Court while married and receive an order of support.  The law states that a person has an ongoing duty to support their spouse during the marriage.  Therefore, it is possible to receive an order of support during the marriage that would be in effect of an indeterminate amount of time.  

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