Legal Alert: Maintenance Law in New York State – Finally Settled or as Unsettled as Ever?

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Steven A. Paquette, Esq. and Ryan S. Suser, Esq.

No divorce, child support, or custody matter, is simple.  And with the New Year, there are a number of changes taking effect that could make things even more complicated.

Over the fall, the Domestic Relations Law was amended considerably.  These changes are taking effect on January 23, 2016.  Among the changes: for the first time, there are statutory guidelines for determining post-divorce spousal maintenance (a/k/a “alimony”) (new guidelines for temporary maintenance are already in effect).  The presumptive income “cap” for both temporary and post-divorce maintenance has also been reduced, considerably.  Also, whereas one spouse’s contributions to the other’s career could once be monetized and added to the “pool” of assets subject to distribution upon divorce, that is no longer the case.

Will the formula make determining maintenance easier for the judiciary?  It could, at least for lower wage-earners.  For higher wage-earners, however, much is still up in the air.  The formula may control, in many cases leaving the other spouse receiving less than he or she would have under the old system.  Or, the judge could rely on a number of discretionary factors to deviate from the formula.  The more that judges deviate from the formula, the more difficult it becomes to predict outcomes for purposes of settlement and trial preparation.

Have “enhanced earnings” (career contributions) truly been eliminated?  The law now requires that these contributions not contribute to the “pie”, that is the pool of assets subject to distribution; but the law still allows the contributions to arguably allow one spouse a bigger “slice” of that pie.  Again, the devil will be in the details of each case. 

In short, some of the amendments’ attempts to simplify and streamline might actually make some matters more difficult to predict and more complicated to prove.  We are staying on top of these issues to maximize the benefit for our clients.  If you would like more information, please call or email us to set up an appointment.   

We have prepared a more detailed and in-depth overview of these amendments and changes. Click here to view and download the featured article. 


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