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Spousal Support: Finding the Right Formula

News that actress Demi Moore is seeking spousal maintenance (alimony) in her divorce proceedings from actor Ashton Kutcher is raising eyebrows about the goals and purposes of maintenance in divorce actions. Kutcher, a successful investor and television and movie star, makes more than $20 million per year. Moore is a major movie star in her own right, once one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood. Moore therefore reportedly has significant financial resources of her own.

To receive spousal maintenance, Ms. Moore must show the court that she no longer possesses the wherewithal to support herself or the means to change that status in the future.

The purpose of maintenance in New York, as described in a recent decision by one of the intermediate appellate courts in the state, is “to provide financial support for the recipient spouse while he or she gains the skills and employment necessary to become self-sufficient.”

  • Maintenance is court-ordered financial support from one spouse to another following the beginning of divorce proceedings.
  • Temporary maintenance supports the other spouse during the process of divorce.
  • Post-divorce maintenance is the support that one spouse must give the other after the divorce is finalized.

Even though temporary maintenance is determined by a strict formula which leaves little discretion to the judge, the judge retains the right to depart from the formula if it is not fair and proper. The court may adjust a maintenance award based on a number of factors:

  • The parties’ standard of living, age and health
  • The parties’ earning capacity
  • The parties’ ability or inability to make a living
  • Exceptional childcare expenses, including medical treatment and education
  • Tax consequences for either spouse
  • The value of the parties’ non-marital property

The legislature designed the strict formula to create a sense of predictability and even-handedness in awarding spousal maintenance. The judge’s additional ability to adjust the maintenance award gives the law the flexibility needed to make sure the results are fair.

If you are anticipating divorce, contact a divorce lawyer at our office. We can advise you about spousal maintenance and work with you help protect your interests during your divorce.

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