New York State Legislature Passes New Spousal Support Law

On June 24, 2015, the New York State Senate passed a Bill that will change the duration and amount of temporary and post-divorce spousal maintenance (alimony) in New York State. The Bill passed the State Assembly on June 15th.

The Bill awaits signature by Governor Cuomo.

The law will only apply to divorce cases filed on specific dates after the Bill is signed into law by Governor Cuomo. The new law may not be utilized as a basis to change existing orders and agreements.

The law will undoubtedly be the subject of many interpretive decisions by the Courts that will follow the signature of the law by Governor Cuomo.

In the interim, here are a couple of highlights that appear in the Bill:

  1. The income “cap” on the payor’s income used for the maintenance formula is $175,000. Income over $ 175,000 will be a matter for a court to decide in its discretion on a case-
    by-case basis. This lowers the income cap now applying only to spousal maintenance granted during a pending divorce case from $543,000.The same $175,000 cap applies to post-divorce maintenance awards.
  2. The new law would also eliminate the court being able to consider as a marital asset the value of a spouse’s enhanced earning capacity arising from a professional license, educational degree, celebrity goodwill, or career enhancement. Consideration of those items has been a major source of contention in past cases.
  3. The amount of time that post-divorce maintenance can be awarded will now be subject to a formula that includes ranges of different percentages of the marriage length, depending on how long the marriage lasted:
    1. For marriages of zero to 15 years, spousal maintenance would be awarded for 15% to 30% of the length of the marriage.
    2. For marriages of more than 15 up to 20 years, spousal maintenance would be awarded for 30% to 40% of the length of the marriage.
    3. For marriages of more than 20 years, spousal maintenance would be awarded for 35% to 50% of the length of the marriage. However, a court would retain the right to award maintenance for longer periods on a case-by-case basis.
  4. In determining the duration of maintenance, the court shall consider anticipated retirement assets, benefits and retirement eligibility age.

Actual or partial retirement will be a ground for modification of post-divorce maintenance, if it results in a substantial reduction of income.

We will continue to monitor signature of the law by the Governor, its interpretation and implementation, and update on any additional matters of interest.

Please feel free to contact us to discuss how this new law may impact your personal planning.

© June 30, 2015 – Robert G. McDermott

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure Notice: The information herein is not intended or written to be used for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or any other applicable tax authority.