Spousal support or alimony is not meant to last forever. New York sets forth statutory guidelines for calculating the duration of support. The rules exist with the view that even in long marriages, the recipient spouse should eventually become self-supporting. Notwithstanding how long a divorce decree says that support should last, there are several reasons why it may terminate prematurely. Generally, spousal support ends under the following circumstances:
- Divorce decree or marital settlement agreement. Generally, in marriages lasting less than 15 years, the court will award support for a period lasting between 15% to 30% of the marriage’s length. For marriages of 15 to 20 years in length, it is between 30% and 40% of the length of the marriage. For marriages over 20 years, it is between 35% to 50% of the length of the marriage. However, the parties can also negotiate their own terms for spousal support in a marital settlement agreement which would be incorporated into the divorce decree.
- Remarriage. Under New York law, if the recipient spouse remarries, he or she is no longer entitled to spousal support, unless the marital settlement agreement states otherwise. Note that cohabitation may also terminate support where the recipient spouse is living with another person in a marriage-like relationship.
- Death. If either the payor or payee spouse dies, spousal support ends, unless their settlement agreement makes the estate of the payor liable. Spouses should include in their agreement that an accident or life insurance policy must be taken out on the payor’s life to secure payment of support in the event the payor spouse dies during the term of the support obligation. Notably, child support also ends if the payor dies, therefore, the life insurance policy should also protect against loss of child support. The life insurance policy cannot exceed the amount of spousal and child support and it can be reduced as the support obligation is paid down.
If you are considering divorce or you are divorced and seeking a change in your spousal support award, contact our office to learn how we can help you.