Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: How can I get my spouse to move out?

A: In New York, one spouse’s moving out of the marital home is accomplished by agreement of the spouses. To that end, moving out does not generally effect assignment of home ownership in the divorce itself as courts do not give either side exclusive possession of the marital home absent a few exceptions.

Q: How much alimony can I get and for how long?

A: In New York, a divorcing party’s spousal support payment, which is what used to be called alimony, is calculated by a statutory formula taking into account each parties’ income. New York law focuses on the length of the marriage as the basis for guidelines to determine the length of the spousal support.

Q: Is my spouse entitled to any portion of property I inherited?

A: In New York, property inherited before or during a marriage is assumed to be the separate property of the person receiving the inheritance unless she or he does something that converts the inherited property into marital property. For example, if money from the inheritance account is deposited in the marital bank account the money becomes part of marital property.

Q: How much is a divorce, and how do I get started?

A: The best way to start a divorce is to retain an attorney who can start a divorce action on your behalf and help you negotiate a settlement that works for you and your spouse. The cost of a divorce is completely within the parties’ control. If there are back and forth arguments over dishes and drapes, the legal bill will be higher than if either party is unwilling to fight over small matters. If lawyers are not spending time on your case, your bill should be minimal. The more time your lawyers are working on your case, the larger your legal bill will be.

Q: Will I have to pay my spouse spousal support?

A: Whether or not spousal support is paid depends completely upon the spouses’ respective incomes at the time a spousal support petition is filed. It is unlikely that either spouse will have to pay the other spousal support if there is little or no disparity between their respective incomes. If, however, one spouse has an annual income that is significantly greater than that of the other spouse, there very well could be a spousal support obligation under the law.

Q: How does child support work?

A: Child support is formulaic under the statute. For the purposes of setting child support payments the amount can represent as little as 17% or as much as 35% of the first $143,000.00 in combined parental income. Your child support payment is dependent upon many factors including the number of children and the parent’s respective incomes.

Q: When can I stop paying child support?

A: In New York, a parent’s legal child support obligation usually ends when, for example, the last child turns 21 years old (unless the parents agree to pay beyond that age) or the last child becomes emancipated. There are other circumstances under which one parent’s child support obligation could be modified or terminated. A parent paying child support should periodically check in with her or his lawyer to learn of opportunities under which child support obligations could change.

Q: What does it mean to be separated from a spouse?

A: Generally speaking, a person who is separated from their spouse is someone who moved out of the marital residence, and may or may not be involved in a divorce action. Depending upon where you are in life, you may want to consider remaining married but living separately under the terms of a written separation agreement. Then you and your spouse would continue to enjoy certain marital benefits, such as joint tax returns, while living completely separate and apart from each other.

Q: Can I use mediation if my spouse and I can’t seem to agree on anything?

A: Mediation can be beneficial even where couples have communication issues, distrust and even hostility toward each other. Mediators are trained to help parties discuss their issues in a respectful way, encouraging the parties to cooperate instead of fight. An experienced and compassionate mediator may be able to provide a safe setting where couples can air their grievances and explore creative solutions to their problems – even in the most difficult of situations.

*These are general answers presented for informational purposes only, and should not be accepted as legal advice. Every legal situation is different and you should only rely upon specific legal advice from a lawyer based upon your actual circumstances.