Spousal Maintenance

Definition of Maintenance

Maintenance, also known as alimony or spousal support, is provided by the higher-income spouse to the lower-income spouse to support their financial stability and independence.

Key Factors

Length of marriage and difference in incomes are key factors in calculating the period and amount of support.

Other Means

A spouse seeking maintenance may receive less if they have substantial resources such as an inheritance.

Contextual Factors

Many contextual factors can be considered such as: age of the parties, health, earning potential, education, needs of the children, loss of health insurance, having stayed home to care for the children, having been out of the workforce, etc.

Estimated Income

If a spouse is not working or is working part time, the court might calculate maintenance by estimating what this person could earn in full-time employment, based on education and experience.

Income Cap

In calculating presumptive spousal maintenance, a cap on the higher-earning spouse’s income is usually used. In some cases, maintenance may go over the cap.


The period of maintenance is given as a range. The term generally ends when the former spouse remarries—and in some cases, upon cohabitation with a significant other.


Some payors seek to be credited for temporary spousal support in the period between separation and having a signed agreement.


Retirement can affect income and what a person is able to pay in maintenance to the other spouse. In some cases of early, voluntary retirement, some level of income may be imputed.


The payor cannot deduct maintenance payments from federal taxes; but in New York State, the payor can deduct maintenance payments from income, and maintenance is included in the payee’s income.

Child Support

When maintenance is paid, it is added to the income of the recipient and reduces the income of the payor. These adjustments in income affect how child support is calculated.

Judicial Discretion

Judges often make adjustments to the standard formula for calculating maintenance.

Collaborative Divorce

In Collaborative Divorce, clients need to understand the formula, but they make their own decision.


Maintenance has many variables for which reason a lawyer’s guidance is helpful.