Legal Columns


Alimony, you can get as much as you know. 11/03/2017

The alimony is one of the most acrimonious confrontations between the two spouses in a divorce. That's why New York has created separate statutes for alimony and provides the necessary guidelines for determining the amount of alimony. This law was amended in 2016, and the amended law is effective from the date of divorce filed on or after January 25, 2016. So, at this time, we will learn more about the basic information and the amended law on alimony that you should know when you divorce in New York through Q & A.

Q. Who can receive the alimony?
First, let's look at the meaning of the alimony. The alimony is used somewhat differently in Korea and the United States. In Korea, the alimony is meaningful for damages. In other words, if one of the spouses causes a divorce, the alimony is paid in the sense of compensation for the mental and physical damage caused to the spouse by the negligence. But in New York, when you decide on alimony, you focus more on each spouse's economic situation than on the reason for the divorce. That is, one spouse needs economic help, and the other spouse can ask for alimony if they are capable of providing economic help. It does not have to be $ 0 for your spouse. Even if your spouse is working and you have an income, you may be able to receive alimony depending on the circumstances.

Q. Can I receive alimony during the divorce proceedings?
Yes, it is possible. Uncontested divorce proceedings in the United States usually end in a few months. However, the situation is different if there is no agreement between spouses. In such a case, the divorce proceedings may take more than two to three years depending on the circumstances. If a spouse does not have income, he or she may not be able to maintain normal economic life for that long period of time. In preparation for this situation, we have a temporary maintenance system in New York. Temporary maintenance means that one spouse is financially supported by another spouse during the divorce proceedings. However, the temporary maintenance is not given automatically. Therefore, spouses who need temporary maintenance must go through the formal process and get a court ruling.

Q. How is the amount of alimony or temporary living expenses measured?
If two spouses agreed well on the amount of alimony, it would be best if they did not, but in case the difference between the two spouses cannot be narrowed, the revised law presents the alimony calculation formula. There are two formulas proposed by amendment law. The first formula applies if your spouse is paying child support. In this case, subtract 25% of your spouse's income from 20% of your spouse's income, and compare this amount to 40% of the sum of your two spouse's earnings. And the lesser of the two is measured by alimony.

The second formula applies if your spouse is not burdened with support costs. In this case, subtract 20% of your spouse's income from 30% of your spouse's income, and compare this amount to 40% of the combined sum of your two spouse's earnings. And like the first formula, the lesser of the two is measured by the alimony.

Let's take an example. Mr. & Mrs. Smith who were married, decided to divorce. Mrs. Smith, who had relatively low fixed income, demanded alimony. Mr. Smith’s income per year was $ 160,000, and Mrs. Smith's income per year was $ 60,000. Since there were no children between the two, we will use the second formula to calculate the alimony. If you deduct 20% of Mrs. Smith’s annual income from 30% of Mr. Smith’s annual income, it would be $ 36,000. The 40% of the combined amount of Mr. & Mrs. Smith’s income is $ 88,000. In this case, the smaller of the two amounts, $ 36,000 (about $ 3,000 a month), is measured by the alimony.

Temporary living expenses are measured in the same way. One thing to keep in mind is that when you use this formula to measure your alimony or temporary living costs, your spouse's maximum income limit is $ 175,000. In other words, if your spouse's income exceeds $ 175,000, you will pay $ 175,000 regardless of the amount.

Q. How long can I get my alimony fee?
As with the amount of alimony, the amendment law also proposes a formula for calculating the length of time that alimony will be paid, in case two spouses are unable to reach a satisfactory agreement. If the marriage of two spouses is maintained for 0 - 15 years, the duration of the alimony is measured as 15% - 30% of the marriage period. If the marriage is maintained for 15 to 20 years, the alimony period is measured as 30% to 40% of the marriage period, and if the marriage has been maintained for more than 20 years, the alimony period is measured as 35% to 50% of the marriage period.

Keep in mind that the formulas proposed by the amendment act as guideline, not absolute standards. Depending on the circumstances and situations, the court may make a decision different from the formula presented by the amendment law. And besides what we've covered here, there is much more that you need to know to keep your rights when you divorce in New York. Therefore, if you are considering a divorce, we encourage you to talk to an attorney who is knowledgeable about the settlement and an experienced divorce lawyer.

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