On October 25, 2011 the New York State Law Revision Commission held a round-table discussion to review New York’s spousal support, i.e. “maintenance” statute, Domestic Relations Law §236(B)(5-a, 6). The discussion precedes a final report which that Commission is required to render under a mandate imposed by the Legislature when new laws concerning temporary maintenance, interim counsel fees and no-fault divorce were adopted last year. In part, the Commission was charged to:
review the maintenance laws of the state, including the way in which they are administered to determine the impact of these laws on post marital economic disparities and the effectiveness of such laws and their administration in achieving the state’s policy goals and objectives of ensuring that the economic consequences of a divorce are fairly and equitably shared by the divorcing couple . . . .
Lee Rosenberg, chair of the Nassau County Bar Association Matrimonial Law Committee, noted that last week’s round-table discussion revealed a gap in opinions. Those advocating for lower income women and domestic violence victims believed that the interim temporary maintenance statute enacted last year should remain in effect, with permanent guidelines leaving little to judicial discretion needed as well. The rest of the attorneys and judges believed a “one size fits all” formulaic approach did not work, created more litigation and did not do justice for both parties.
Mr. Rosenberg commented that if there was any majority view, it was that the temporary maintenance statute needed a major overhaul or complete repeal, except perhaps in lower income cases. Courts should retain real discretion to consider long-established factors in making any award, temporary or final.
A Preliminary Report on Maintenance Awards in Divorce Proceedings (Law Revision Report on Maintenance May 11 2011.pdf) was issued by the Law Revision Commission on May 11, 2011. That Report concluded that the 2010 temporary maintenance law sparked “intense debate over whether a formula should be used to calculate temporary maintenance.” To pursue its mandate, the Commission is reviewing reported appellate and trial court decisions awarding or denying temporary and/or final maintenance over the past 14 years. The Preliminary report presented a summary of the most recent decisions.