Between the impact of the coronavirus and that related to business interruption from social unrest, we in New York City have already been through major difficulties in 2020. Many people face an unexpected drop in income or other decreases in financial worth because of job loss or furlough, business closure, decrease in business profits or illness.
What does financial stress do to an alimony obligation?
If you receive alimony from a previous divorce – called maintenance in New York statute – and you face financial loss from recent events, you may apply to state court for an order increasing payment amounts, usually based on a “substantial change in circumstance.”
On the flip side, if you are subject to a court order to pay maintenance to your ex-spouse and recent events have made continued payment at the current level difficult or impossible, you can also file a petition for a modification that reduces or cancels the obligation.
New York law
The state statute says that a judge can end or modify a current maintenance order that was entered after a divorce trial if the evidence shows one of these:
- The recipient is incapable of self-support
- A substantial change in circumstances
- A “financial hardship” that is also a substantial change in circumstances
- Full or partial retirement of the paying party resulting in a “substantial change in financial circumstances”
If the current maintenance obligation is based in a marital settlement agreement, either party may request a modification of spousal maintenance upon a showing of “extreme hardship.”