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Temporary spousal support: A lesser-known form of alimony

On Behalf of | Jul 14, 2022 | Divorce

Amid all the emotions stirred by divorce, it can be difficult to work through the many issues which need to be resolved. Alimony is one such issue. Will alimony be necessary? If so, how much and for how long? The tendency is to think of spousal support in the context of post-divorce alimony, but there’s more to it than that.

How temporary spousal support is different

When New York defines spousal maintenance (alimony), it uses the term “temporary maintenance” to refer to alimony which may be required before the divorce is finalized, not after. The need for spousal support doesn’t necessarily wait until a couple is divorced. Instead, depending on the circumstances, it can arise the moment a couple makes the decision to part ways.

Imagine a couple where one spouse is the primary earner of the family, while the other spouse remains home to care for the children. When they decide to divorce, the earning spouse moves out of the home, taking their income with them. How will the non-earning spouse continue to pay the mortgage and other bills? If the divorce is contested, how will the non-earning spouse afford the legal expenses they must incur?

If the couple is still able to communicate and work together, they’ll be able to answer these questions on their own, without court intervention. But if they cannot, temporary maintenance provides the answer. The court will not grant it automatically – the spouse in need of temporary maintenance must request it – but if the situation justifies temporary support, it can be ordered to assist a spouse who is financially disadvantaged.

Temporary maintenance exists only while the divorce is pending. Once the final divorce order is made, temporary maintenance ends, to be replaced by permanent orders, when appropriate.