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New York’s New Spousal Support Law Corrects Problems of 2010

New York’s no-fault divorce law of 2010 introduced guidelines for temporary spousal maintenance that were meant to standardize awards, but those guidelines created unintended consequences that the legislature has now acted to correct. According to the New York Law Journal, by relying on disparity of income rather than need, the 2010 guidelines often produced a disproportionate redistribution of income: the spouse who came to the court as the high earner often left court with lower net income. After observing how the totality of the court-directed payments (spousal support, child support and counsel fees) affected the parties' economic reality, judges often had to deviate from the guidelines to arrive at an outcome that was not unduly harsh. Thus, a law intended to provide greater certainty came to rely heavily on judges’ discretion to produce fair outcomes.

In response to complaints of unjust and inappropriate results, the state legislature modified the temporary support law. Now a payor spouse only has to pay support if the recipient spouse’s income is less than two-thirds of the payor’s income. Additionally, the income cap for the temporary maintenance award formula was lowered from $543,000 to $175,000. The new law also provides for different ways of calculating temporary or post-divorce spousal maintenance for payor spouses who pay child support and those who do not. Under the new law, judges retain discretion to adjust amounts of spousal maintenance where the outcome would be unjust or inappropriate. In addition, the new law allows the court to allocate responsibility for payment of family expenses in a manner the court deems equitable.

With regards to post-divorce maintenance, the law also provides the court with additional factors to consider, such as:

  • Termination of child support income
  • Imputed income on assets allocated through equitable distribution
  • Anticipated retirement assets and benefits
  • Retirement eligibility age of the spouses

However, the new law eliminates enhanced earning capacity as a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. The current law allows the court to consider a professional degree or license earned during the marriage as an asset of the marital estate. The new law only allows the court to consider enhanced earning capacity as a factor for purposes of equitable distribution and spousal maintenance. These distinctions may seem arcane to the average person, but if you are contemplating divorce, this point and many other aspects of the new law will have a profound impact on your financial future.

If you are considering divorce in the Buffalo area, the Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis and Associates is ready to assist with aggressive representation based on reliable, current legal knowledge and more than 20 years' experience. Call us at 716.886.9600 or contact our office online to schedule a consultation.

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