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Do spousal support and maintenance differ?

As you prepare for your divorce proceedings in New York, the issue of alimony will almost certainly come up. You may mention the word “alimony” only to hear terms such as “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance” in response. That is because many view both terms to be synonymous with alimony. While they are indeed similar in many aspects, there are actually differences between spousal support and maintenance. 

Both are meant to provide you with financial support to help maintain the same standard of living that you enjoyed while you were married. New York’s Family Court Act places the responsibility on married couples to financially support each other. Thus, if you are unable to support yourself after leaving your spouse, then you may seek spousal support. This is support paid to you while you are still technically married (including during the period of time that you work through your divorce proceedings). 

Of course, the need for such support may not end once your divorce becomes final. Spousal support obligations typically with the dissolution of your marriage. You can then petition the court for spousal maintenance. This is assistance paid to you either until you are able to support yourself financially or you remarry. In many cases, the court will set a predetermined time period for a spousal maintenance agreement to last. 

You should know, however, that spousal support and maintenance are not automatic benefits awarded in every divorce case. If the court believes that you are indeed capable of finding gainful employment based on your professional skill set, it may choose to forgo any financial assistance obligations altogether.