Will Your Spousal Support Increase Once Child Support Payments End?

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In many divorces, one spouse gets spousal support or alimony from the other. In New York, spousal support is calculated using a formula established by statute, although there is still room for the parties to negotiate the amount paid. The formula varies depending on whether the payee spouse is also receiving child support. This raises the question of what happens if child support payments end before spousal support. Will the spouse still receive the same amount or will spousal support increase?

How is spousal support calculated?

The formula calculating spousal support varies depending on whether the recipient is also getting child support and whether the payor’s income exceeds an income cap (which is $192,000 in 2021).

Generally, if the payor’s income is less than $192,000/year and the recipient is not receiving child support, spousal support is determined as follows:

  1. Subtract twenty percent of the payee’s income from thirty percent of the payor’s income; and
  2. Multiply the sum of the payor’s income and the payee’s income by forty percent;
  3. Subtract the payee’s income from the amount derived from clause (b) above;
  4. The court then takes the lower of the two amounts derived by clauses (a) and (c).

However, if the recipient is receiving child support, then the court subtracts 25% of the recipient’s income (instead of 20%) from 20% of the payor’s income (instead of 30%) and makes the same calculation described above. The rationale for this adjustment is to avoid giving the payee/custodial parent money for housing costs twice when the payee and child are living together. Otherwise, the payee would receive money for his or her housing costs as spousal support and then also get it as part of child support payments.

If the payor’s income is more than $192,000, the support calculation is more complex and variable, but the adjustment reducing spousal support when the spouse is also receiving child support still stands.

These rules generally apply, however, the court may also consider other factors, such as the parties’ age, health, earning capacity, and other factors.

What happens when child support ends?

If child support payments end but the spouse is continuing to receive spousal support, the amount of support must be recalculated. Essentially, the court will go back to the original formula and determine what is owed to the spouse as someone not receiving child support. This will typically mean an increase in spousal support. To modify the amount of support, the party must go to court and request modification. 

If you are divorced and seeking a change in your spousal support award, contact our office to learn how we can help you.

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