Changes Ahead for New York’s Maintenance Law

Changes Ahead for New York's Maintenance Law By Sandy Balick{3:06 minutes to read} Maintenance, formerly referred to as alimony, can be an emotional and confusing topic for the uninitiated. The expected signing of a new law amending New York’s maintenance statute offers the prospect of improved clarity and predictability in the law.

It’s anticipated that these changes may become effective in the fall with full application in the course of 2016. Those contemplating separation or divorce will want to be aware of the most significant aspect of these changes.

A legal consult with a matrimonial attorney is the best way for you to learn whether and to what extent maintenance may play a role in a particular divorce. Attorneys are guided by some combination of the statutes and by the significant body of New York case law addressing maintenance claims. This body of law has been criticized as resulting in inconsistent and sometimes unfair maintenance awards. The law’s changes are intended to diminish these concerns.

The hope is that these changes will make it easier to address the three most important questions surrounding maintenance:

  • Is there a potential obligation on the part of a spouse to pay maintenance?

  • How much?

  • For what period of time?

The pending changes are designed to promote predictability without robbing the courts of the flexibility to address the unique circumstances of particular cases.

The central purpose of maintenance is reflected in the governing statute, New York Domestic Relations Law (DRL) 236 Part B 6, which will remain largely unchanged by the new law. A key part states that a court “may order maintenance in such amount as justice requires, having regard for the standard of living of the parties established during the marriage, whether the party in whose favor maintenance is granted lacks sufficient property or income to provide for (their) reasonable needs and whether the other party has sufficient property and income to provide for the reasonable needs of the other and the circumstances of the case and of the respective parties.”

Also unchanged by the new law is the statutory recognition and support of voluntary agreements on divorce issues. Thus, spouses in divorce mediation will continue to have near complete freedom to negotiate their own maintenance arrangements. To make the most of this freedom, knowledge of the impending changes will be important. Changes will include:

  • Formulas for calculating maintenance;

  • A new dollar threshold; and

  • Actual guidelines for establishing the duration of maintenance awards.

More details next time.

Sanford (Sandy) Balick, Attorney & Mediator, NY Sandy Balick signature
Sanford E. Balick, Esq.
Founder & Principal Mediator
Consensus Point Mediation, LLC.

Phone: (646) 340-3434
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