Method of Awarding Temporary Maintenance Under Review
ALBANY - State legislators are considering proposed changes in the way temporary maintenance has been awarded in New York divorce actions for the past three years.
Senator John Bonacic, chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, said he favors the approach outlined by the state Law Revision Commission to impose a formula for calculating temporary maintenance similar to how child support payments are set under the Child Support Standards Act.
While the Law Revision Commission recommended requiring use of a formula for temporary maintenance for all divorcing couples who jointly make less than $136,000 a year, the threshold used for the child support payment calculation, Bonacic said he believes a somewhat higher income total may be better.
In 2010, when the state adopted no-fault divorce, it instituted a system where courts have set interim or temporary maintenance for non-monied spouses according to 19 financial factors. The guidelines are used for the first $500,000 of a couple's incomes.
Bonacic said the current cap is too high and gives parties in divorces, especially lower-income couples, too much opportunity to drag out disputes over relatively small assets.
"With the threshold being so high, it is counterproductive," said Bonacic, a Republican from Mount Hope, Orange County. "It leads to court congestion, more delays and more litigation and higher costs."
Bonacic said he would support the target of $200,000 as the maximum annual income level for using a formula to establish temporary maintenance. The incomes of 95 percent of New York couples are under $200,000, Bonacic said.
"If it is $200,000, it gets rid of 95 percent of the cases in a more efficient manner," Bonacic said.
The senator said that protracted litigation will still be unavoidable over temporary maintenance, post-divorce maintenance and other issues in a relatively small percentage of the 50,000 divorces in New York each year because of the highly emotional nature of marital break-ups.
The chief Senate sponsor of the 2010 no-fault divorce and temporary maintenance statutes, Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, D-Mount Vernon, does not concede that the $500,000 income limit is too high but is willing to discuss changes, her counsel Gerard Savage said.