Robert E Hornberger PC, Long Island Divorce Attorney

New York Domestic Relations Law Changes Affect Spousal Maintenance on Long Island, NY

In 2010, sections of the New York Domestic Relations Law (DRL) pertaining to the calculation of temporary Spousal Support were revised with the intent of providing a more uniform and predictable system for Spousal Maintenance distribution. Although three years have passed since the revisions officially went into effect, courts in Nassau and Suffolk County on Long Island are still struggling to interpret the changes to the statute to properly determine the calculation of Spousal Maintenance awards. This new development in New York State law will have significant implications for Long Island couples seeking temporary Spousal Support throughout the course of their Divorce Litigation and beyond.

New Section Establishes ‘Presumptive Entitlement’ for Spousal Support

Including Ongoing Housing and Insurance Costs

Section 236(B)(5-a) of the DRL is the recently implemented section of the statute that replaced the old standard for determining the calculation of temporary Spousal Maintenance payments. Prior to this revision, presiding judges largely determined maintenance awards based upon factors including a party’s standard of living, their reasonable needs, and their ability to pay. The new method to calculate support is configured using a formula that establishes a “presumptive entitlement” award. Recent case law has established that Temporary Spousal Maintenance is meant to encompass all of the expenses of the payee including, carrying costs associated with a marital residence, as well as the payment for health insurance coverage. Khaira v. Khaira, 93 A.D.3d 194 (N.Y. App. Div. 2012).

Calculations for Spousal Maintenance

In accordance with the new revisions to the DRL, the calculation of maintenance has two components for payors with an annual income capped at $500,000.00 or less. First, twenty percent (20%) of the payee’s income is subtracted from thirty percent (30%) of the payor’s income. Second, forty percent (40%) of the parties’ combined total income is calculated and the payee’s income is then subtracted from that figure. The smaller number of these two calculations is considered to be the presumptive entitlement for the purposes of determining temporary spousal support. The end result is that the payee will receive at least thirty percent (30%)  and in some cases, forty percent (40%) of the parties’ combined income in temporary support.

Judges Can Award More Than Minimum

Courts have established that it is permissible to award a payee more than the calculated presumptive entitlement award. However, judges must explain and support their decisions to do so. With respect to payors exceeding the $500,000.00 annual income cap under the statute, in addition to calculating a presumptive entitlement award, courts will conduct a further assessment of various factors to determine additional support payments. The statute lists a series of nineteen factors that influence the calculation of maintenance awards under these circumstances. A few of these factors include, the length of the party’s marriage, disparate incomes between the parties, the parties’ standard of living during the course of the marriage, the potential earning capacities of both parties, the wasteful dissipation of marital assets or property by one spouse, the inability of one party to obtain meaningful employment, etc.

Rules for Termination of Temporary Spousal Support

The 2010 revisions to the DRL have not only implemented new guidelines associated with the determination of Spousal Maintenance awards, but they have also provided a new standard for when Temporary Spousal Support ought to be terminated. Prior to the revisions, Temporary Spousal Maintenance payments ceased upon the final entry of a divorce decree. Today, Temporary Spousal Maintenance expires either upon the issuance of the final maintenance payment by the payor, or upon the death of one of the parties. In addition to these changes, the revised version of the statute now specifies that the termination of maintenance should be based upon the length of a marriage. These particular nuances provide the court system with wide discretion, since maintenance may conceivably continue longer than it traditionally had in the past, or it can terminate before a final judgment of divorce is even entered.

New Rules Intended to Provide Uniform System for Spousal Maintenance

Before the 2010 revisions to the Domestic Relations Law, the court system largely determined maintenance awards in divorce actions in a discretionary manner. The purpose of the revisions was to provide a more uniform and predictable system to calculate temporary spousal support payments. The new system adopted by the DRL utilizes a formula to determine a presumptive entitlement award based upon both of the parties’ respective incomes. In situations where the payor falls into the category of earning $500,000.00 or less annually, the payee will receive at least forty percent (40%) of the parties’ combined income in temporary support, or the equivalent of two-thirds of the payor’s income. In cases where the payor exceeds the $500,000.00 income cap pursuant to the statute, a presumptive entitlement award will be determined for the payee, coupled with the court’s consideration of various factors to determine additional support.

Confused About Spousal Support? Call Us at 631-923-1910 in Nassau & Suffolk, Long Island

The laws regarding the calculation of temporary spousal support are complex and confusing.  It is important to consult with an attorney knowledgeable in how temporary spousal support is calculated as well as the exceptions.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., P.C., for a free consultation at 631-923-1910 or fill out the short form on this page. We’re here to help you.