Can spousal maintenance (alimony) be renegotiated?
That’s an excellent question. And the answer is, “That depends.”
As far as spousal maintenance goes, in New York State, the courts must apply the law regardless of outside influences, including COVID-19 or another natural disaster. In 2010, New York adopted a numerical formula approach to determining spousal support (alimony) whereas previously the amount was determined on a case by case basis by the courts. That formula may be flexed if needed for a good cause shown. Otherwise, it would typically remain even as mandated even in the face of the pandemic we’ve just experienced.
Can my ex reduce maintenance by claiming loss of income due to COVID?
The court will consider adjustments to spousal maintenance when a good cause is shown.
If you are receiving spousal maintenance payments from your ex, your concern about whether he would be able to continue to meet those obligations during COVID was justifiable. At the same time, your ex, who is legally obligated to pay you, may suddenly have found himself financially strapped. He may have had to take a pay cut, work reduced hours, been furloughed, or even stopped working altogether. If you are relying on his payments, what do you do?
In a perfect world, the two of you would talk it out. You might even be able to reach an interim agreement about continued, albeit reduced, support on a short-term basis. However, if you do come to an agreement in instances like these, it would be best if you spoke to an attorney who would draw up an appropriate legal document reflecting your new, interim agreement. Even when there is no pandemic, you can do this, and it ensures your contract is legally enforceable should there ever be a problem in the future.
Even when you and your ex are unable to interact, your attorney can reach out for you. Often, even in the most intractable situations, all it takes to reach an agreement is a suggestion from an attorney to push the conversation along.
During the lockdowns, many courts continued to operate, albeit with limitations. Still, it is worth noting that during the pandemic, certain awards of spousal support were simply delayed because the courts did not have sufficient calendar space to hear every case for spousal support requested.
If your ex-spouse stopped paying or reduced the amount of spousal maintenance you were receiving pre-Covid, and you have reason to believe your ex currently is better positioned to resume spousal maintenance at pre-COVID levels, let’s talk. I’m Dan Stock, and you can call me at 475-232-4105 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.