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What should I know if my spouse is the high earner?

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2023 | Divorce

While two-income homes are common in White Plains and Westchester County, there are still many people in the area who might not work outside the home.

Sometimes, this decision is based on personal choices and values. In other cases, the person might suffer a disability or have some other circumstances that make it hard if not impossible to work outside the home.

In still other cases, both spouses may work, but one is in a profession where they either do or easily could earn much more money than the other spouse.

Divorce can be an especially scary time for a New Yorker who is facing having to live as a single person with little or no income and possibly few job prospects.

Often, people in this position have to think about how they will both pay their bills and support children, as court-ordered child support might not be enough to make ends meet.

The good news is that New York law does offer some important protections for people in this situation.  As a word of caution, though, how the law applies will depend on each person’s unique situation.

New York does allow spouses to pursue spousal maintenance

For example, the spouse who earns less can ask for maintenance, which also gets called spousal support, during a divorce.

If the court finds that the higher earning spouse should pay maintenance, the court will apply a guideline formula to come to a fair dollar amount.

The idea behind maintenance is not to punish a spouse who makes a high income. The point is just to be sure that both spouses have a chance at maintaining their standard of living and moving on financially after a divorce.

New York also offers other protections to lower income earners

Those who earned less during a marriage may also find it more difficult to afford an attorney.

Under New York law, a court may require the other spouse to pay all or part of lower income earner’s attorney fees. Whether a court will do so depends on some other factors as well.

Additionally, New York courts may consider a difference in earning potential or income when dividing up the couple’s property.

The court could also decide that the lower earner needs a larger share of the property since the higher earner can more easily recover from the financial aftermath of a divorce.