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Basic facts about alimony in a divorce

New Yorkers who are involved in a divorce might be interested to learn about spousal support, also known as alimony. During divorce proceedings, alimony may be awarded to one of the former spouses in order to mitigate the effects of losing the higher-wage-earning spouse's financial support. Alimony is usually paid on a temporary basis while the payee gathers the resources to become self-sufficient.

Alimony is not determined based on specific state guidelines like child support is. Instead, judges decide when to award alimony in a divorce based on a broad set of criteria that may differ from one case to the next. There are, however, some common factors that are usually considered when determining how much alimony to award. Some factors judges usually consider are the age and physical condition of the non-wage-earning or low-wage-earning ex-spouse, the length of time it would take them to become self-sufficient and the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage.

A spouse who has been ordered to pay alimony will not be forced to do so through mechanisms like wage garnishment or property liens. If the payee is not receiving the ordered spousal support, they are entitled to force payment by reporting their ex-spouse for contempt of court.

Awards for alimony are not legally subject to old-fashioned stereotypes of men being the primary source of income in a family. Whichever spouse put their career on hold during the marriage and has little or no income as a result of the separation may seek spousal support during the divorce proceedings. A family law attorney might be able to help an ex-spouse to assert their rights in a divorce by requesting the court to order reasonable alimony payments.

Source: Findlaw, "Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics", August 13, 2014

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