Can You Reduce Spousal Support If Your Spouse Doesn’t Want to Work Full-Time?

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New York Spousal support rules do take into account spouses who are not in the workforce full-time at the time of the divorce. Typically, they are not expected to get a job right away but neither can they refuse to work full-time and simply receive spousal support for years. In addition to performing the statutory support calculations, courts look at several factors to determine whether an adjustment is needed concerning how much and for how long support should be granted to a spouse who has been unemployed or under-employed for a significant period of time.

What Are the Rules for Spousal Support in New York?

New York has a statutory formula that determines spousal support. The formula varies depending on whether the recipient is also getting child support and whether the payor’s income exceeds an income cap (which is $203,000 in 2022). Importantly, the recipient’s income is always used in the calculation of support. 

The recommended duration of spousal support is based on the length of the parties’ marriage. Generally, in marriages lasting less than 15 years, payments will be made between 15% to 30% of the marriage’s length. For marriages of 15 to 20 years, payments should last between 30% and 40% of the length of the marriage. For marriages over 20 years, support should last for 35% to 50% of the length of the marriage. However, the court may extend this based on various factors including the party’s age, health, need for training/education to become employable, caregiving responsibilities and other factors.

What If a Spouse Has the Ability to Be Fully Employed But Does Not Work Full-Time?

If a spouse is not working full-time because of caregiving responsibilities, the court may require the other spouse to contribute to childcare expenses incurred by the custodial parent so the custodial parent can obtain an education and training and eventually become re-employed. Similarly, the court will lengthen the duration of support for a spouse who has been out of the workforce for a long time and requires education and training to obtain full-time employment. This is because the goal is to get the recipient’s spouse back into the workforce and to be self-supporting as soon as possible.

However, if the recipient spouse has the ability and availability to work full-time but is under-employed, then the court may, at the request of a party, bring in a vocational evaluation expert. The expert would interview the spouse, and assess his or her education and job skills and the market for those skills to provide an opinion regarding the employability and earning capacity of the spouse. 

The expert’s opinion may affect the support award. Notably, even if the spouse is employable, the payor spouse will still be required to pay the full amount of support in most cases. However, the duration of support may be shortened to account for the fact that the spouse does not need the statutory time to become self-supporting.

Contact A New York Spousal Support Lawyer

While there are statutory guidelines for support, the parties can negotiate their own agreement, which is why it is important to have a skilled divorce lawyer. If you are considering divorce, contact us to learn how we can help you.

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