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The Sallah Family Law Firm

Maintenance Statute Overhaul and the Promise of Less Litigation

by Dean Sallah

Governor Cuomo recently signed into law a bill that completely revamps provisions of the Domestic Relations Law governing spousal maintenance in matrimonial cases. The purpose of these modifications is to drastically reduce the need to litigate the issue of temporary and/or permanent spousal support. The new rules, summarized in the article below, set forth a formula that the Court must apply in determining maintenance. The Court is required to order the monied spouse to pay support in the amount that ‘pops out’ of the formula, unless it finds that doing so would be unjust or inappropriate.

Unfortunately the hope of reduced litigation is not supported by recent history. The 2010 version of this formula (the original law only applied to temporary maintenance.) did not lead to less motion practice. On the contrary many practitioners felt compelled to file applications for spousal support even if there was no need for the additional support. In many instances the statute was used a tool to simply transfer wealth in a case. And why not? Even if your clients spouse was paying all of the family bills and providing your client with access to funds, it was now possible to secure up to 30% of the monied spouses post commencement income for your client.

As a result more support motions were filed. And more motions meant more litigation.

I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see whether the new tweaks to the law actually reduce the need for Court intervention on issues of maintenance.


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