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Senate considers altering spousal maintenance law

The New York State Law Revision Commission joined a group of legal experts to provide testimony to evaluate effectiveness of recent changes in state divorce law. A legal review commission proposed that a 3-year-old spousal maintenance law should be revisited in order to provide more consistency and fairness in divorce settlements. The commission studied a report published in May observing impacts of a specific formula in use to calculate spousal support payments. The formula is similar to one previously used to determine child support. Its implementation is expected to limit subsequent litigation and inconsistencies following divorce agreements.

According to the chair of the legal revision commission, the alteration would decrease costs of a divorce, lesson the financial strain on low-income families and alleviate an oversaturation of divorce court cases.

Some experts state the formula method suggests it favors those individuals with lower incomes but decreases in effectiveness as incomes increase. Recommendations include changing the income cap which would provide positive repercussions for over three-quarters of taxpayers. In cases where there is sparse income and few assets, the formula tends to produce efficient and prompt benefits, as well as tie up less time in court. It also proves to be less costly and bring about faster and fairer settlements.

At first glance, the bill appears to have garnered significant support from prominent members of Congress, who agree with the practicality of lowering the income cap and addresses inconsistencies in formulating payments over time. One representative stated the amended changes do not perpetuate a widening gap between the wealthy and less financially secure individuals, but instead purports to achieve a more just result. A Supreme Court justice with extensive experience in presiding over divorce cases has expressed support for the commission's suggestions, citing current laws have proven ineffective in keeping the system simple, especially in cases of higher income brackets.

The Women's Bar Association requested the previous law be completely rewritten or replaced, espousing continued advocacy for child support but questioning the use of a generalized formula since all families and needs are unique. The Legal Aid Society has reportedly commended the use of the formula for clients from lower economic strata with a continued suggestion to provide guidelines for duration of temporary spousal support.

Divorce is never easy and hammering out the details of spousal support, child custody and support, and property division can take its toll. An experienced divorce attorney's advice can prove invaluable during this difficult time.

Source:  legislativegazette.com, "Senate Judiciary hears testimony on fixing divorce law" Kelly Fay, Sep. 30, 2013

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