A court may order that life insurance be maintained to secure the payment of child or spousal support or the payout of a distributive award. It is not to be an award in an of itself. Its purpose is not to create an additional fund on the death of a party, but rather to secure that support and property payments contemplated by the divorce decree will be made, even on death.

Thus, in its June 20, 2014 decision in Marfone v. Marfone, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, modified the judgment of Oneida County Acting Supreme Court Justice Joan E. Shkane to reduce the required life insurance from $500,000.

We agree with defendant, however, that the amount of life insurance the court required defendant to maintain with respect to his child support obligations is excessive, and we therefore modify the amended judgment by reducing the amount of that life insurance from $500,000 to $300,000.

Domestic Relations Law §236B(8)(a) authorizes the use of life insurance to secure the divorce payments:

8. Special relief in matrimonial actions.
a. In any matrimonial action . . . the court may also order a party to purchase, maintain or assign a policy of . . . on the life of either spouse, and to designate in the case of life insurance, either spouse or children of the marriage . . . as irrevocable beneficiaries during a period of time fixed by the court. The obligation to provide such insurance shall cease upon the termination of the spouse’s duty to provide maintenance, child support or a distributive award.

Thus, insurance can be ordered to be maintained on the life of either party, to be owned by either party, naming either spouse or the children as irrevocable beneficiaries for a period no longer than the divorce decree payments.


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In its February 14, 2013 decision in Melody M. v Robert M., the Third Department affirmed an order of now-retired St. Lawrence County Family Court Judge Barbara R. Potter which modified a prior joint custody order to award the father sole custody of the parties’ three children (ages 8, 9 and 12). The Third Department also affirmed Judge Potter’s imposition of an order of protection against the mother that prohibited her from, among other things, posting any communications to or about the children on any social network site.

The parties had entered into a separation agreement in 2006 providing for joint custody of their children with alternating physical placement. In February 2009, they stipulated to continue joint custody, but with the father having primary physical custody. In July 2010, the mother commenced the first of the four proceedings determined by Judge Potter’s order, seeking to alter her parenting time so that she would have the two youngest children from Wednesday to Sunday of each week and the oldest child from Sunday to Tuesday of each week. The father opposed the proposed schedule change, filed violation petitions and filed a modification petition seeking, among other things, sole legal custody of the children.

After a hearing, Judge Potter found a change in circumstances sufficient to conclude that the joint custody arrangement was no longer viable and that an award of sole legal custody to the father would be in the best interests of the children.


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