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Spousal support, also known as maintenance or alimony, is available in a proceeding for support or as ancillary relief in a matrimonial action, whether it be for divorce, annulment, or separation. Spousal support is available during the pendency of the action (temporary or pendente lite maintenance) or as a final award, whether for a fixed period of time, or permanent.

Spousal support awards, unless otherwise provided in a contract (separation agreement or settlement agreement) terminate upon the death of either party, the remarriage of the recipient spouse, and under certain circumstances where the recipient, although not remarried, holds himself or herself out as having been remarried. Maintenance is generally tax deductible by the payer spouse and taxable to the recipient. In setting spousal support, New York courts are required to consider such factors as the length of the marriage, the health of the parties, their respective earning ability, the presence of children, tax consequences, the contributions of the recipient as a parent, spouse, wage earner and homemaker, as well as contributions to the career of the other, along with the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.

Generally spousal misconduct, unless egregious, is not a basis for denial of maintenance. This is a major change from prior matrimonial law where marital misconduct, particularly adultery, often served as a basis for the denial of alimony. Another change in New York law was the concept of equitable distribution of marital property, i.e. property acquired during the marriage which was not received by gift, inheritance or as compensation for personal injury. Equitable distribution reflects the revised notion that marriage is an economic partnership and the parties are entitled to a share of such assets, regardless of whose name the assets are titled. Noteworthy is that “equitable distribution” does not mean “equal distribution” in New York.