Unlike in prior decades, divorcing spouses in New York now have the option of filing for a no-fault divorce, which doesn’t require that the parties provide proof of fault in order to dissolve a marriage. It is still possible, however, to file for divorce based on another spouse’s actions, but only if those actions satisfy a few specific statutory grounds for divorce, including cruel and inhuman abuse, incarceration, abandonment, and adultery.
Although proving that one spouse’s infidelity or other misconduct was the cause of a marriage’s demise doesn’t usually affect divorce settlements, it can have an effect on alimony awards, making it especially important for those who are considering divorce, to contact an experienced divorce lawyer who can walk them through the repercussions of filing for a fault-based divorce in New York.
What is Alimony?
Spousal support is a monetary award that is ordered in cases where there is a significant difference between the incomes or financial resources of divorcing spouses. Alimony is not automatic, as one spouse must request an award during the divorce process. Whether or not a court decides to make such an award and if so, the form it will take and its duration, depends on an assessment of a wide range of factors, including:
- The salaries and wages of both parties;
- The length of the marriage;
- The couple’s marital assets;
- The ages and health of both parties;
- Whether the parties share children;
- Who bears primary responsibility for childcare responsibilities;
- The parties’ education, training, and employability; and
- The parties’ standard of living during the marriage.
Judges do not usually take marital fault, including allegations of infidelity, into account during these assessments, so just because one spouse was unfaithful does not mean that the other spouse will automatically be awarded alimony. Courts are, however, allowed to take egregious conduct into account when issuing alimony awards.
Effect of Infidelity on Spousal Support
Generally, adultery alone is not considered adequately egregious to guarantee that one spouse will receive an alimony award. Instead, the parties would need to demonstrate a financial link between the unfaithful spouse and the couple’s marital assets. If, for instance, a party can prove that a significant portion of the couple’s marital assets were used to support the other romantic partner, then a court may be willing to award the petitioning spouse a larger portion of the couple’s marital assets or a higher alimony award, in response to the wasteful dissipation of the marital estate.
Alimony Tax Repercussions
Traditionally, spouses who are required to pay alimony were permitted to deduct those payments on their yearly tax returns, while recipients were required to include those payments when calculating their income. After changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), however, in 2017, couples whose divorces were finalized on January 1, 2019 or after are no longer permitted to deduct alimony on their tax returns, although couples whose divorces were finalized prior to 2019 can continue to do so.
As a result of these changes, the tax repercussions of any alimony awards issued by family law courts could have a much more significant financial impact on divorcing couples. For this reason, divorcing parties who are attempting to prove fault in order to obtain a more advantageous divorce settlement, including an alimony award, are encouraged to keep the consequences that such an award would have on their tax situation in mind during their divorce proceedings.
Alimony Provisions in Prenuptial Agreements
Before officially getting married, many couples choose to enter into prenuptial agreements, in which the parties come up with an arrangement that accounts for how marital assets will be divided in the event of divorce and in some cases, whether one party will be required to pay alimony to the other. In fact, many prenuptial agreements contain adultery-related provisions that require either party to pay alimony in a certain amount if the couple later divorces because of allegations of infidelity.
Contact a New York Divorce Lawyer for Help with Your Case
If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage and you would like more information on spousal support and how accusations of adultery could affect a settlement or spousal maintenance award, please contact one of the dedicated New York divorce lawyers at The Mandel Law Firm by calling (646) 770-3868 today. You can also reach a member of our legal team to schedule an initial case review by sending a message to [email protected] or by completing one of our online contact forms.