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New York State restructures spousal maintenance parameters

The law is a living doctrine and, as such, changes periodically to better fulfill the fairness of the law to its citizens. Marriage, and thus divorce, is a state issue, so the state of New York, from time to time, makes adjustments to family law policy. One such adjustment was approved to go into effect starting October 1, 2015, bringing changes to spousal maintenance that are thought to better manage how it is handled in divorce proceedings.

This is especially pertinent for those entering into a high net worth divorce. In a high net worth divorce situation, there is often a spouse who makes significantly more money than the other. This is where spousal maintenance is often placed into effect in order to bridge the gap of inadequacies that occur with income disparity. With the change in the law there is now a set formula for post-divorce maintenance, whereas the courts had previously determined it on a discretionary basis.

The new formula now allows spousal maintenance to kick in when there is one spouse earning $175,000 or more, which is down significantly from the $524,000 income threshold under the 2010 law. Under the changes, there are situational fluctuations that can be imposed for ex-spouses paying both spousal support and child support that help off-set the burden or necessity of both payments. Most importantly, the restructuring gives courts enhanced discretion to deviate from the guideline's spousal maintenance amounts, correct maintenance totals, and allow judges to determine what would be "unjust" or"inappropriate" according to individual cases.

Essentially, the changes give courts more discretion to tailor spousal support to the specific family situation. Since no two incomes, liabilities, or family situations are alike, this should help family courts to determine settlements that are as helpful as possible to those affected. Spousal maintenance cannot bridge the emotional gap that living separately versus married will make one hurdle. However, it does intend to put those suffering from income deficiencies after marriage on an even playing field, financially speaking.

Source: The New York Law Jornal, "Overhaul of Spousal Maintenance Takes Effect this Month," Joel Stashenko, Oct. 1, 2015

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