Lorenz v. Lorenz
63 A.D.3d 1361, 881 N.Y.S.2d 208 (2009)

Facts:

  • After 33 years of marriage, the parties divorced.
  • The lower court awarded maintenance to W in the amount of $500 per week until the time she could draw Social Security when she turns 66 (she was 54 at the time).

Issue:
H asserted that the lower court abused its discretion in awarding maintenance because W is capable of being self-supporting and, in the alternative, that the amount and duration were excessive.

Holding:
Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • In maintenance determinations “the amount of earnings necessary to enable the recipient to become self-supporting must be determined with some reference to the standard of living of the parties, as well as the earning capacity of each party; and these factors carry more weight in a marriage of long duration.”
  • While the purpose of maintenance is to provide temporary support until the spouse could develop skills to be self-sufficient, self-sufficiency is not always possible. That was the case here:
    • H made over $100k per year while W made only $20k. Additionally, H was in good health and W in poor health. While H was building his career, W was devoting her time to the family’s domestic needs.
    • Moreover, while H was building his career, W was attending to the home and kids, and she wasn’t favored in the lower court’s 50-50 division of the martial property. So basically they made up for that here with the alimony award.
  • In short, the amount was within H’s means and appropriately crafted to meet W’s needs.