Give Me Back My Kidney: A Strange Divorce Case in New York

 

In 2001, Long Island surgeon, Dr. Richard Batista, donated his kidney to his wife, Dawnell, in order to save her life.  Although the surgery was a success, the same cannot be said for the marriage which ended when Dawnell filed for divorce in 2005 after 15 years. Batista claims that his wife began cheating on him eighteen to twenty-four months after she received the transplant.

Instead of fighting over the million-dollar home they shared, Batista is asking that either his kidney be returned or that he be compensated for it. He is seeking $1.5 million in damages. Batista claims that his demand stems from frustration regarding the ongoing negotiation process with his soon to be ex-wife. He decided to go public with the details of his divorce as a last resort after being prevented from seeing his three children for months at a time.

Matrimonial attorneys were quick to voice legal opinions that Batista’s claim for damages would fail. In the Huffington Post article “Divorcing Man Wants Kidney Back After Wife Cheats,” a Manhattan attorney, Susan Moss, argues that no judge will entertain this demand because judges are unwilling to place a value on such assets.  She cites a similar case in which a husband wanted to be repaid for the cost of breast implants but was denied compensation.

Moss’s prediction was correct. In February, a Long Island Judge rejected Batista’s request on the grounds that it would violate public policy. The Judge’s Referee, Jeffrey Grob, wrote, in a ten page ruling, that entertaining Batista’s claim would make the statement that human organs are commodities.… <Read More>


Long Delays for Divorces

Massive budget cuts and layoffs in the NYC court system are causing long delays in granting of uncontested divorces. Divorce cases are taking longer to resolve in most counties, with Richmond County and Kings County judges taking up to 10 months to sign uncontested divorce judgments.


William J. Leininger, a veteran matrimonial attorney, said “the wait to obtain a signed judgment finalizing a divorce is now nine months or more after both sides agree to terms. The finalization process used to take three or four months.” And that, he says, is “on top of the time typically required —  from a few months to two years — to reach the divorce settlement.”

These delays are hindrance to remarriage by the parties and, far more importantly, to payment of needed alimony and child support, because settlements incorporating them are unenforceable without the signed judgment. This can place some parties in financial hardship as they wait around for the final judgment, without which they cannot collect the promised sums they need to continue to support their families. Under New York’s no-fault amendments, parties may seek pendente lite support, but that, too, takes time and burdens the system, and meanwhile they are without needed support. Pendente lite support is often used to provide support to the lower income spouse while the divorce process is pending.

According to the New York City Bar Association, the state judiciary, in 2010, was subjected to a $170 million budget cut. About 8 percent of its workforce, or 1,300 employees, left the courts due to early retirements and layoffs.… <Read More>


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>