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Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed a bill into law that changes the way the state’s courts calculate alimony payments. The bill institutes guidelines for temporary maintenance and post-divorce alimony. The most important changes in the new policy are a lower cap on income counted in the calculation of payments and the removal of a policy that calculated the lifetime value of a professional degree or license. The law is being hailed as a necessary compromise between many groups and a victory for both low- and high-income New Yorkers.
The bill, which was passed by the New York State Senate and the State Assembly in June 2015, only applies to future cases. The law places a cap of $175,000 on the income that is automatically factored into spousal awards. This is a significant drop from the previous cap of $543,000, which only applied to maintenance awards during the divorce process. The new cap applies to both temporary (pendente lite) maintenance and post-divorce awards. Judges retain the discretion to apply the formula to higher incomes.
Under previous laws, a professional degree earned during a marriage counted as an asset. This meant that a judge would work with accountants to figure out the lifetime value of the degree and count this as an asset when determining alimony payments. This calculation was made even if the person with the degree was not using it or had switched to a different career path. While this process had been intended to compensate partners who sacrificed their own career to allow their spouse to earn a degree, over time it became applied more regularly, often with unfair results.
The new law provides formulas for calculating spousal support with and without child support. These calculations involve the incomes of both former spouses. New guidelines also help judges determine how long a support award should last, ranging from 15 to 30 percent of the length of the marriage for marriages lasting less than 15 years to 35 to 50 percent of the length of the marriage for marriages that lasted more than 20 years.
If you are considering a divorce or have been served with divorce papers, it is important that you seek the counsel of an experienced attorney who will aggressively represent your interests in court. At Goldberg Sager & Associates, Attorneys at Law, we represent clients in divorces and family law cases throughout the New York City area. To schedule a consultation with a Brooklyn divorce attorney, call us at 718-514-9516 or contact us online.