Frequently Asked Questions:
Spousal Support & Maintenance


Basic facts about spousal support and maintenance.

What is spousal maintenance? How is it different from spousal support? Who is eligible for maintenance?  How much and for how long? The right knowledge of the legal avenues to collect periodic support payments can help you select the best option for your financial future.

You deserve to know the facts. For quick answers to common questions about spousal support and maintenance, explore our FAQs below or call us for a free and confidential consultation. Our divorce attorneys serve Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island with the knowledge, experience, and trust to give you the best advice.

What is maintenance?

Maintenance is a periodic payment made to a spouse by the other spouse for his or her support. If it is made during an action for divorce (before the judgment of divorce) it is called temporary maintenance.  If a spouse qualifies for maintenance, she (or he) can obtain both an award of temporary maintenance and, once the judgment of divorce is issued, maintenance for a period of years following the divorce.

How is spousal support different from maintenance?

The critical difference between spousal support and maintenance is that spousal support is awarded to a dependent spouse in an intact marriage. Because an intact marriage has no set duration, spousal support also continues indefinitely. There are two ways spousal support can be awarded: (1) in a proceeding brought in Family Court for spousal support (often brought in the same petition for child support); and (2) as a component of a legal separation (as opposed to a judgment of divorce).  Though spousal support has no expiration date, it is not a substitute for maintenance where the parties are likely to be divorced, since spousal support terminates in all cases when a judgment of divorce is issued.

Who is eligible for maintenance and how much will be awarded?

A spouse whose income is substantially less than the other spouse is eligible for maintenance.  For cases commenced after January 23, 2016, when an amendment to the statute governing maintenance went into effect, maintenance is determined by the application of a formula employing the parties’ incomes.  The same formula is used for both temporary maintenance and final maintenance awards, and results in a presumptively correct maintenance figure.  The income of the spouse making more money (the “monied spouse”) is currently capped at $192,000.  The formula for determining maintenance uses two equations; the equation that produces the lower number becomes the presumptively correct maintenance. For more information, please see the NY Court’s Spousal Maintenance Guidelines Calculator.  It is important to note that the presumption of the correct maintenance amount provided by the formula can be defeated.  The statute provides numerous factors that the court can consider should one of the parties wish to challenge the presumptively correct amount. These factors, if applied, could cause the presumptively correct amount to go up or down; for example, acts of domestic violence that “inhibit earning capacity” could cause the amount to go up. On the other hand, if the parties were separated for a long time before the divorce and the lower-income spouse supported herself adequately without maintenance, this “pre-divorce separate household” could conceivably reduce the amount of temporary maintenance below the presumptively correct amount.

For how long is maintenance paid?

Although there is no set rule determining the length of a maintenance award, the statute (eff. 1/23/16) provides guidelines for the duration of an award. For marriages less than 16 years in duration, the duration of maintenance is suggested to be 15 to 30% of the duration of the marriage.  For marriages that lasted 16 to 20 years, the suggested duration is 30 to 40% of the length of the marriage.  Finally, for long term marriages lasting longer than 20 years, the suggested duration is 35 to 50% of the duration of the marriage.  Again, these are just suggested durations.  The determination of duration remains within the discretion of the judge, who may be guided by factors set forth in the statute as well as case law.  In all cases, maintenance will terminate upon death or remarriage. Often, when settling, the parties will agree to also terminate maintenance upon the cohabitation of the dependent spouse with a paramour.

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When facing a divorce, child custody, or child support case, you deserve a lawyer who will listen to your concerns and take the time to explain your options, and who has the knowledge and experience to give you the best advice.

The best way to identify whether a Long Island divorce lawyer is right for you is to meet for an initial consultation. At Petroske Riezenman & Meyers, we are pleased to offer potential clients a free, confidential consultation where they can learn more about our experience and discuss their legal dispute. We can also offer our preliminary assessment about how the dispute will likely turn out as well as what evidence you will need for a favorable outcome.

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There are many Long Island attorneys who will promise to aggressively represent your interests in a divorce or family law dispute.

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At Petroske Riezenman & Meyers, our success is built on three pillars:


Matrimonial and family law changes often. New developments come out of Albany every year, and the courts implement the law in sometimes surprising ways. To effectively protect your interests, you need a lawyer who understands the latest developments in the law, however minor. We stay informed of upcoming amendments and trends in the law. We know the latest court decisions that might impact how a judge views your case. If there is a precedent that supports your claim, we will find it and bring it to the attention of the judge.

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Family law disputes are not like other lawsuits. These disputes are governed by different laws and different judges. Although you can ask a criminal defense lawyer or an immigration attorney to handle your matrimonial or family law dispute, you should not be surprised if they are soon in over their heads and unable to provide effective representation. At Petroske Riezenman & Meyers, our attorneys and support staff have dedicated their careers to excellence and professionalism in the practice of matrimonial and family law.

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We are proud to be highly recommended by many satisfied clients we have represented over the years in divorce and Family Court cases.  We have over a century of combined experience, which allows us to perform a complete review of your case and discover facts that work to your advantage. We understand the unique challenges that family law disputes create, such as the risk of domestic violence, impediments to a negotiated resolution, or the possibility of harassing or vexatious litigation. To see the positive results we have achieved for others, check out our Client Reviews.

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