In addition to providing a guideline for the amount of a maintenance (alimony) award, New York’s relatively new maintenance (alimony) statute includes a presumptive range for the period of time maintenance is to be paid based upon the length of the marriage. Particularly with short marriages, what should be the impact of the length of the marriage on the award of maintenance while the divorce action is pending? Put differently, should a spouse be able to increase support, just by keeping the divorce action going?

In her August 31, 2017 decision in Barlik v. Barlik, Acting Queens County Supreme Court Justice Elisa S. Koenderman was faced with that issue.

Among the temporary relief sought by the parties in this divorce action, the parties husband cross-moved for exclusive use and occupancy of the marital residence. The wife moved, in part, for temporary maintenance and child support and for an order directing the husband to pay 100% of the carrying costs of the marital residence; an order appointing a forensic accountant to value the income from the husband’s business as well as a real estate appraiser to value the marital residence, both at the husband’s expense; and for counsel fees.

Justice Koenderman first denied the husband’s motion for exclusive use and occupancy, but granted the wife’s cross-motion for exclusive use and occupancy of the marital residence.

The Court then granted the wife’s motion for temporary maintenance and child support. As required by the statute, the court calculated the guideline amount by applying the statutory formula to the payor’s income up to the statutory cap of $178,000 (see DRL § 236[B][5-a][b][5] & [6]). Then, the court may adjust the guideline amount of temporary maintenance if it is “unjust or inappropriate” (DRL § 236[B][5-a][h][1]). The court must consider certain enumerated factors, including but not limited to the health and age of the parties; the present or future earning capacity of the parties; and care of children during the marriage that inhibits a party’s earning capacity, as well as any other factor which it finds just and proper to determine “whether and to what extent it will apply the statutory formula” to the payor’s income which exceeds the statutory cap.


Continue Reading Considering the Length of the Marriage and Other Factors on Temporary Support Awards

Calulator on 100s 6 red.jpgIn the first appellate decision to apply the October 12, 2010 temporary maintenance amendment to the Domestic Relations Law, it was held that the recipient’s share of marital residence carrying charges is within the temporary maintenance award, itself. It was improper to have the payor spouse pay carrying costs directly in exhange for a credit against income before calculating maintenance.

In the February 7, 2012 decision in Khaira v. Khaira, the Appellate Division, First Department, considered the breadth of D.R.L. §236B(5-a). No longer was the temporary (pendente lite) maintenance award used simply to “tide over the more needy party,” but rather to provide “consistency and predictability in calculating temporary spousal maintenance awards.” The amendment “creates a substantial presumptive entitlement.”

The First Department modified the April 1, 2011 order of New York County Supreme Court Justice Deborah A. Kaplan.  In the case before it, Justice Kaplan had “properly followed the initial procedures” to determine that the presumptive temporary maintenance award would be $138,000.00 per year ($11,500.00 per month), at least based on the husband’s first $500,000.00 of income. Justice Kaplan, then, analyzed the reasonable needs of the wife and children after taking into account husband’s payment of the mortgage and health insurance and expenses. Justice Kaplan, then, awarded the wife $13,870.00 in monthly unallocated spousal and child support payments, in addition to requiring the husband to pay the $5,317.00 monthly mortgage payments and the family’s $855.00 monthly health care premiums and medical expenses. The award and expenses totaled $20,041.00 per month. Justice Kaplan, however, did not discuss the factors required by the amendment to be considered when making an award in excess of the formula applied to the first $500,000.00 of a spouse’s income.

Before remanding the issue to Justice Kaplan for redetermination, the First Department focused on the “suggestion” inherent in her decision “that the formula was intended to cover the support needs of the non-monied spouse, such as food and clothing, but not the cost of the mortgage payments for her residence.” However, because any specific reference to the carrying charges for the marital residence was absent from the temporary maintenance formula amendment, the First Department considered:

[It was] reasonable and logical to view the formula adopted by the new maintenance provision as covering all the spouse’s basic living expenses, including housing costs as well as the cost of food and clothing and other usual expenses.

The First Department noted that prior to the amendment, it was common to award support both in cash payments to the spouse as well as to third-parties. That practice was “not only eminently reasonable, but also the most expedient way of covering payment of the necessities, and protecting the home as a marital asset.” The “new approach” changes that, instead awarding “the amount that will cover all the payee’s presumptive reasonable expenses.”

The First Department did not rule out the possibility of a direct mortgage payment, but, as required by the statute, only after the analysis of income in excess of the $500,000.00 cap was made.

The impact of this decision is clear.  However, it also reveals the lack of logic in the remaining support calculations required by the various support provisions.


Continue Reading Appellate Decision Clarifies Temporary Maintenance Calculations; Temporary Child Support Awards Must Be Next