If you're the higher earner in your marriage and are contemplating divorce, you may be concerned about the relatively open-ended alimony laws in New York State. However, a recent legislative change could provide you with a better idea of how much you could wind up paying in spousal support after your marriage has officially ended. By planning your marriage exit strategically, you may be able to reduce the amount (or length of time) you pay. Read on to learn more about which portions of the law have changed and what these amendments could mean for your divorce.
Which alimony laws were recently changed?
New York's laws previously allowed judges to use the "lifetime value" of a professional degree or other certification as a factor in awarding alimony to spouses who had supported the degree-earner through school. This could have a significant effect on alimony payments for divorcing parties in which the higher earner had only had his or her larger salary for a few years, yet would be required to pay a sizable portion of the total earnings (or earnings available for those with similar educational backgrounds) for the rest of his or her career. This law also made it difficult for individuals to estimate the amount of alimony they could potentially be required to pay.
A July 2015 legislative reform changed this law and lowered the total amount of income subject to the alimony calculation. While additional alimony may be ordered in extreme cases (such as those earning millions per year), if you're a high earner but not in the elite class you should be able to use the alimony calculator provided by New York State to get a good idea of how much you could be required to pay.
What should you do to keep your alimony payments as low as possible?
If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are on civil or friendly terms, it's important to remain that way -- by coming to a general agreement on how assets are to be divided before the courts become involved, you'll avoid costly litigation and may wind up paying less to exit the marriage. For example, you may wish to give up certain assets or take on debts in exchange for an agreement not to seek alimony, or to only receive alimony for a certain number of years. As long as both you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse receive competent legal representation and enter into an agreement of your own free will, you're free to seek an alimony amount well below the calculation amount (or even no alimony at all). Contact a lawyer, like http://www.jeffdragonlaw.com, for more information.