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How long does my Partner have to pay spousal maintenance for?

Sugar Loaf, NY |

My partner is paying child support for 3 kids. He also has to pay spousal support to his soon to be ex wife. This has gone on for 2 years. He cannot even afford a place to live himself he has a room at his mothers house, otherwise he would be living in his car. She has teenage kids who are at school full time, why can't she work? She has many activities such as acting and drama groups during the day, goes away for weekends but is making absolutely no effort to find a job. He pays child support, but the kids still come to him for payment of clothes and other activities and medical bills. How can this be right? I have my own small child who lives with me and I have always worked full time to support them.

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Attorney answers 5


The general rule is the length of maintenance will equal half the time they were married. So if your partner was married for 10 years he will pay 5 years worth of maintenance. This does slightly deviate as each case is different. The child support payments will occur until the children are 21 and sometimes 22 by agreement.


The law aims to protect one spouse from going on welfare but forces the other to go on welfare.


The first question is whether there is an agreement that provides for spousal support. If so, the agreement controls. Beyond that, if the order was done in family court, the order will remain in place until the time of a divorce. If it is maintenance from supreme court, it will continue as long as the court order requires. There is an unwritten rule (that is somewhat frequently disregarded) that there is one year of maintenance for every three years of marriage.

The above answer is intended for informational purposes and is not legal advice. It does not constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship.


If you're talking about spousal support ordered through the Family Court, that ends with the judgment of divorce. The Judgment of Divorce will then specify the duration on maintenance, if any. While the best she can realistically hope to get at trial is 1 year of maintenance for every 2 years of marriage, that time frame should also give him credit for the years he's already been paying. Also, just because a Judge may grant that doesn't mean that's what will be settled upon - durations on settlements are often far less than the "1 year for every 2 years of marriage" rule. Schedule a consultation with an Orange/Westchester Divorce attorney for a full assessment.

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The answer to how long your partner has to pay spousal support is controlled by the Domestic Relations Law and the equitable jurisdiction of the Court which is empowered and required to consider all relevant facts and circumstances of the parties. In addition, NY law requires parents to pay child support. Since the payee-spouse is soon to be the ex-wife, the spousal support amount has been set either by the court during the litigation ("pendente lite") or pursuant to agreement between the parties. If the "alimony" (a now discarded term in NY) was awarded pendente lite and the payor-spouse can no longer reasonably afford to pay this amount, insofar as he is already paying a portion of his income for the support of his 3 teenage kids, then his attorney may petition the court to take another look at its award under certain circumstances or get the case on the trial calendar asap. If the spousal support was made by agreement, then that presents different hurdles. The time frame for those payments, its commencement, duration and termination, would be contained within the language of the agreement itself and therein you'll find an answer to your question. The plus, if any? As each teen emancipates, the child support amount will decrease.

The foregoing information should not be construed or relied upon as personal legal advice or creating any attorney-client relation but merely as a comment or discussion only to a posted public inquiry.

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