When a divorce is filed in New York, sometimes one party has to pay the other party temporary maintenance while the case is pending and/or post-divorce maintenance payments for a period of time. Usually this occurs when one party is seeking maintenance from the other party and they can not come to an agreement. Usually maintenance is sought because there is a substantial disparity in incomes, or when one party stayed home to care for children and lost out on career opportunities, or when one party is disabled and unable to work. The amount and length of time that maintenance payments are made is calculated based on a formula.
Maintenance is generally awarded to the spouse with the lower income for the purpose of encouraging economic independence from the other spouse. The amount of maintenance can be calculated using the NYS Maintenance Calculator.
The length of time that maintenance is payable can be between 15% and 50% of the length of the marriage. The length of time for maintenance payable can be calculated using the NYS Maintenance Calculator.
Currently (in 2018 and years prior) Divorces with Maintenance is taxable income to the spouse receiving it, and tax deductible to the spouse that pays. Sometimes when one spouse makes very little income it makes sense to pay more maintenance than child support because it will benefit both parties. The payment to the lower income spouse may not trigger any tax consequences for the lower income spouse, and the paying spouse will get a tax deduction for the maintenance payments that were paid in any given tax year.
Starting in 2019, Maintenance Awards will become tax neutral, meaning there are no tax consequences for either side, much like the tax treatment of child support. This change came about in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
Maintenance is common when there is a significant disparity between the income of the parties. It is less common when each party is capable of self-support, or neither party makes enough money to reasonably make the payment. The payment of maintenance sometimes causes animosity between the parties because one party things they deserve it and the other does not. This is less likely, however, when one party will be doing most of the child rearing and is unable to work full time, or both parties agree that one parent should stay home with the children.