How to get life long alimony (now called maintenance)

You know how Debbie Metanopoulos’ husband accused her of “living beyond their means” during the marriage? That is not the way to convince a court to award you life long alimony or manimony. (See our manimony posts here: And forgive me in advance for any gender bias I displayed.) In Gann v. Gann, the court determined that because the parties’ standard of living was beyond their means, by their own admission, their standard of living would not be a factor in determining maintenance. So step one is, make sure that you were not living beyond your means.
It helps if you have not signed a prenup that limits what you would get in a divorce. If the prenup is otherwise enforceable, it will be enforced, unless, for some reason, you would be forced onto the welfare rolls or become a public charge as a result of it being enforced. So if in the interim of your marriage you became disabled or something and could not be self-supporting and your husband is financially able to provide additional support that is beyond the scope of the prenup, you could likely get the court to set aside that provision of the prenup that limits your alimony to a specific duration.
The longer you remain married, the stronger the argument you can make for life-long alimony.
The older you are when the marriage dissolves, the stronger your argument for life long alimony. If you are over 50 and were a stay at home mom, even better.
If you are able to show that you gave up educational opportunities to be a stay at home wife and mother for a significant length of time, you will strengthen your argument in favor of life long alimony.
Your standard of living prior to the divorce does count a lot. And the court is statutorily required to consider it. As a matter of fact, here are the 11 factors a court looks at to determine if you will get lifelong alimony (maintenance) or just durational maintenance, or no spousal support at all. Pursuant to Domestic Relations law section 236 Part B(6):
1) Your income and property
2) the duration of the marriage and your age and health
3) your present and future earning capacity
4) Your ability to become self-supporting
5) reduced or lost lifetime earning capacity you suffered as a result of having foregone or delayed education, training, employment or career opportunities during the marriage.
6)the presence of children of the marriage in your home
7) tax consequences to you and your husband of your alimony/maintenance award
8) contributions and services you made as spouse, parent, wage earner and homemaker, and to the career or career potential of your husband
9) the wasteful dissipation of marital property by either spouse.
10) any transfer or encumbrance made in contemplation of a matrimonial action without fair consideration
11) any other factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.
Source: New York Law of Domestic Relations by Alan Scheinkman. If you have any further questions about this, email me at
Originally published January 30, 2009