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Alimony helps to ensure that a supported spouse can continue to maintain his or her married lifestyle after a divorce. In some instances, the support is considered permanent and can only be ended under certain circumstances. In New York, alimony is also referred to as “maintenance.”

What Factors Influence Alimony?

A divorcing couple can negotiate to determine how much is paid for permanent alimony. However, a judge ultimately determines if the amount is fair. In assessing the agreement between a couple and in deciding how much is owed, the judge will consider certain factors.

The length of the marriage and the present and future earning capacities of each spouse are two of the most important factors considered. The education and training of both spouses is also factored into the decision.

If the couple has children, the judge will assess whether caring for them has an impact on the custodial parent’s ability to earn a living. The distribution of marital property is also a factor.

Other factors a judge can consider include health insurance benefits lost after the divorce, taxes, expenses related to the care of the children that extend beyond child support, and the need to care for others outside of the children.

What Can End Permanent Alimony?

Even though the spousal support received might be termed “permanent alimony,” it can be ended in certain situations. For instance, if the recipient has an increase in income, the judge could decide that maintenance is no longer necessary.

The maintenance could also end or the court’s order could be modified if there is a change in circumstances for the payer. If the payer loses his or her job or has a reduction in salary, the original order could be reduced or terminated.

In addition to these instances, alimony could end if the recipient remarries. In New York, true cohabitation could also have an impact on whether maintenance continues. Cohabitation is more than the occasional overnight visit from a girlfriend or boyfriend. When a recipient spouse has a live-in partner, this could be considered cohabitation.

What If Alimony Is Not Paid?

A court order for permanent alimony does not necessarily mean it will be honored by the payer. If he or she misses payments, the recipient has legal options available to have the spousal support order enforced.

Before involving the court, the recipient’s attorney can contact the payer to determine if there is a reasonable justification for the missed payments. For instance, if the payer was sick and unable to work for a period, there might not be a need to involve the court if he or she is planning to continue the payments soon.

If there is not a justified reason for missing payments, the recipient can ask the court for help. The court will likely consider the payer spouse in contempt of court. In addition to having to pay arrears, the payer spouse could face a fine for disobeying the original court order.

The judge could also issue a withholding order. The order would be sent to the employer of the payer spouse. The employer would withhold a set amount from the payer spouse’s paycheck before he or she receives his or her pay.

A divorce attorney can help with every step of the permanent alimony process. He or she can help with the negotiations with the other spouse and provide an assessment of any offers received to determine if they are fair. The attorney can even help with taking steps to have the order enforced.

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