Spousal support in New York is determined based upon a formula which starts with the incomes of the parties. Income is defined as what was or should have been reported on the prior year’s tax return from all sources, adding back voluntary deductions from income for things like health insurance and retirement deductions. The gross incomes of both parties are then plugged into the formula and FICA taxes are deducted. Note that the post-FICA income of the higher-earning party is capped at $184,000, so even if that party’s income for the prior year was $3 million, the income to be used for spousal support calculation is $184,000.
These incomes are applied to one of two formulas. If the higher wage-earner spouse is also paying child support, the formula produces a lower spousal maintenance amount than if that spouse is not paying child support.
No matter which formula is used, the resulting number is presumptive in nature. That means that a judge should use the amount determined by the formula unless the court determines, based upon several factors listed in the statute, that the presumptively correct amount is unjust or inappropriate. If the court makes such a determination, the court may substitute a higher, lower amount of child support or direct that no spousal support is appropriate.
Your attorney should review the formulas with you and be able to answer your questions about how income is calculated, which formula is appropriate and whether, given the circumstances of your case, a judge might order a spousal maintenance amount different from the result of the formulas.