New Maintenance “Spousal Support” Laws Were Passed and are Awaiting the Governor’s Signature

New Maintenance “Spousal Support” laws were passed and are awaiting the governor’s signature.  If you are a husband or a wife; wage earner or homemaker;  and are considering a divorce, you may want to run to your attorney now.

On June 24, 2015 by an almost unanimous vote of 146 to 1 the New York State Senate passed a bill which is labeled a “sweeping revision” with respect to maintenance.  Maintenance, originally called “alimony”, has evolved through the Domestic Relation Laws in New York State.  Maintenance seeks to equalize incomes and erratically financial inequities, embracing the modern concept of marriage as a complete economic partnership.


What this law would do is provide a mathematical formula whereby the “monied” spouse will be paying the non-monied spouse maintenance. It will also take into consideration child support and the lifestyle of the parties, and will have a formula for the length of time the maintenance will continue (the “duration”) from zero to fifteen years of marriage. Maintenance could be between fifteen and thirty percent of the length of the marriage. For fifteen to twenty years of marriage maintenance should be thirty to forty percent of the marriage, and for twenty years or more maintenance should be thirty five to fifty percent of the marriage. Lifetime maintenance is not precluded from this law.

Like the Child Support Standards Act, which provides a strict statutory income for child support, it was intended to make things simple. It will have the exact opposite effect. It will make things more complex, and will result in huge alimony awards in the beginning, just to later be whittled down by case law and decisions.  In order to set case law and court decisions, litigants will be forced to litigate into uncharted territory at their expenses.

A good example of this would be to split the Child Support Standards Act.  When the Child Support Standards Act came out, it stated that for one child the non-custodial parent will pay seventeen percent of divorce income minus approximately 7.65% deductions. It was a clear mathematical formula.  Well over a decade later cases are still being fought over for what (gross) “income” means and what child support actually covers.  The Child Support Standards Act provides for seventeen percent for one child; twenty five percent for two children; and twenty nine percent for three children. However, daycare is above and beyond child support, and can be even more (on a monthly basis) expensive than child support. Therefore, if a person has three children with three separate spouses they will pay seventeen percent times three plus a good portion of all daycare.  This formula would mean that that individual (without any maintenance) would most likely pay over 105% of their salary total to three separate children, with three separate parents. This is completely different than the person who has three children with one parent, and gets a bulk discount both in the daycare and child support (which would only be twenty nine percent instead of the fifty one percent incurred by three children with three different partners.)


It is the above sort of loop holes and problems that this formula for maintenance in the new law will only cause, not correct. The new maintenance law will cause more problems than good which should result in a rush to the court house by both monied spouses and non-monied spouses.

If you make more money than your spouse and are considering for divorce, file now.  Start your divorce yesterday, I cannot stress this enough. If you wait, you will be subject to these new maintenance guidelines and the award would be high, compared to what you could have chosen if you filed now.

If you make less than your spouse, contact your attorney immediately. You should work with your attorney so that when the new law starts you could be one of the first cases filed, and you will not be behind the title waves of cases that will most certainly be filed. You will also be before any new case law that whittles down or reduces the fast and over reaching nature of this law which gives non-monied spouses more money than previously thought.

Additional comments regarding this law:

At this point it appears that New York State is 100% gender neutral (or is at least moving there), with respect to custody. It is starting in Westchester, Rockland, Yonkers, the Bronx, and moving through the city, the boroughs, and into Long Island in notion that parenting begins with a 50%-50% parenting schedule.  The parenting schedule is one thing however support is another. On the prevailing law it appears that people who have 50-50 parenting schedules do not, for the most part, enjoy a reduction in child support.  Here, there will also be a maintenance equalization of the income. How can a maintenance equalization and child support lend itself to a continued trend towards 50-50 custody? It probably will not.  

The law will have an effect of being gender neutral. The recent economic slowdowns in 2008 together with technological advances have made many high profile New York City jobs disappear. Predominately, men are suffering unemployment more than women. Therefore, this law could have a reverse effect on women, where in maintenance could complete its evolution into a completely gender neutral equalizer.

Equalization of income whether through graduated tax system; philosophy; or simply the passion for the underdog that says spread the wealth to those in need: will be evident in the court system in connection with the new maintenance obligation/formulas. In this instance, spreading the wealth to the party that has young children sounds like it is a fantastic, if not perfect, idea. It may go alive if the person who makes more money retains custody of the children, and has to spread the wealth to their spouse who simply needs to find him/herself without the constraints of the custodial parent.

If history has taught us anything, this law will be more confusing (and cause more litigation) than leaving everything the way it is. Whether you are the homemaker; bread winner; father; mother; same sex partner; newlyweds; if you are unhappy with your life and your marriage; and think you want to do something about it; now is the time to see your lawyer.

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