New Spousal Maintenance Law

On September 25, 2015, Andrew Cuomo signed into effect a new law that amends the Domestic Relations in New York State. This new bill will change the way pre- and post-judgment maintenance payments will be calculated when spouses divorce in New York.

Divorce is a very difficult time in a person’s life. It is difficult not only because it is the end of a relationship, but it is also the beginning of figuring out how to maintain the same lifestyle without the previous supplemental income of a spouse. Considered to be one of the most dreaded parts of divorce matters, the calculation of alimony has been long argued by spouses and attorneys alike. The first section of the new law concerns temporary maintenance, which is the tentative support that is paid by one spouse to the other during separation while their divorce is being completed. Likewise, alimony is the monthly payments one spouse pays to the other during divorce proceedings, or after they are divorced.

The previous alimony law relied on calculating maintenance awards by applying the same formula to all income levels below $543,000. According to the new law, a formula will be approved to decide what the spouse with lower income will receive, and the income cap — used to apply maintenance formulas — will be lowered from $543,000 to $175,000 and the duration of the post-divorce alimony obligation will be accounted for accordingly to the extent of the marriage. The alimony law will prove predictability for lower income New Yorkers, and will benefit attorneys by maintaining judicial flexibility in more complex cases. Furthermore, the new law will nullify the 1985 ruling in O’Brien v. O’Brien by discarding the notion of enhanced earning capacity as a marital asset in equitable distribution.

O’Brien v. O’Brien was a divorce case that brought into effect a law that protects women during a divorce by placing a value on the long-term impact of one spouse’s professional degree or license if it was obtained during the marriage. The intention of this law was to help compensate the other spouse for his or her assistance in obtaining the degree. However, according to the current law, a professional degree or license does not have the traditional features of property- such as an objective transferrable or exchange value- and it would be not suitable and illogical for the courts to regard such an intangible possession to be a type of property. The new law affirms that degrees are not estates and argues that they cannot be transferred by any means.

The new law applies to all divorces filed after October 25th, 2015. If you are looking to start a divorce action against your spouse, or are in the midst of a divorce, contact The Law Offices of Inna Vernikov, PLLC. We will help you gain some clarity regarding the proceedings of your divorce.