Major Changes in New York’s Domestic Relations Law Now Effective

Major Changes in New York’s Domestic Relations Law Now Effective by Joshua Katz

{2:16 minutes to read} On September 25, 2015, the governor signed into law a major change for Domestic Relations in New York State.

The new law codifies a maintenance formula for calculating how much spousal support should be paid in divorce actions, and for how long. It applies to any divorce action filed after October 25th of this year. New York has joined the national trend to codify a basic maintenance formula for judges. This simplifies the process – making maintenance calculations more predictable and consistent from court to court and judge to judge.

The formula requires judges to calculate an amount as a starting point, then to adjust the support, if necessary, in consideration of factors A through M. The statute also specifies a duration of time for which the maintenance should be paid. Previously, duration was left to the discretion of the courts, creating a wide range of unpredictable maintenance awards. Perhaps most importantly, this new law limits a spouse’s maintenance obligation by capping calculations based upon the income of $175,000 per year.

The new Domestic Relations Law will make divorces less complicated.

In addition to re-writing the maintenance statute, the new law overrules the landmark case of O’Brien v. O’Brien and nullifies that precedent set more than twenty-five years ago. Under the old law, judges were forced to place a dollar value on professional licenses and degrees and distribute “enhanced earnings” as a tangible asset. This will no longer be done, as the new statute specifies that a spouse’s enhanced earnings capacity arising from a license, degree, celebrity goodwill or career enhancement shall NOT be considered marital property subject to distribution.

I serve on the National Maintenance Advisory Committee for the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which investigated various formulas for determining spousal support in other states around the country. We looked at how the formulas were working and made recommendations to state legislatures based on our findings. Perhaps our Committee’s findings were factored into New York State Legislature’s recent decision.

If you come to our office for a consultation about a divorce action, we can now calculate, within a reasonable range, how much support you will receive or pay. Should you decide to go forward with a divorce, you will leave with a much clearer view of the road ahead.

What factors might the court consider to increase or decrease your spousal support?


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Kew Gardens, NY 11415

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