Problems still exist in New York’s temporary maintenance law

It has been over a year since unilateral no-fault divorce was adopted in New York. No-fault divorce, which now exists in all states, permits one spouse to receive a divorce by swearing that the marriage has been irretrievably broken for six months or more.

Ever since the law’s passage, it has had critics and supporters. The law, which includes a small provision about temporary spousal support (also known as alimony and maintenance), is currently being analyzed by the state’s independent Law Revision Commissions:  According to a Wall Street Journal article by Sophia Hollander, there are “troubling aspects” of the strict formula for awarding temporary spousal support. A report is due in April.

Temporary maintenance is awarded when the income of the “less-monied” spouse is less than two thirds the income of the spouse with the higher income. The formula calls for maintenance to be the lesser of a) 30% of the payor’s income minus 20% of the non-payor’s income or b) 40% of the combined income minus the non-payor’s income. Income for calculation of temporary maintenance is to be capped at $500,000, and judges are free to adjust amounts when the income exceeds $500,000.

The law aimed to protect the low-income spouse, but ended up hurting the affluent spouse by shifting income unfairly. At times, it even transformed the richer spouse into the poorer one.

The movement is to make the law less binding on judges and more advisory; however, the fear is that it will lose its effect.

Westchester Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, the primary sponsor of the alimony law, said, “[The 2010 law is] better for women.<Read More>