No-Fault Divorce in New York and Alimony
Back in 2010, when New York became the last state to adopt no-fault divorce, proponents celebrated the fact that it meant estranged spouses would no longer be compelled to viciously blame each other to get their fair share in divorce court.
Fast forward a couple of years, and the celebration for some has given way to frustration, now that more spouses (and their attorneys) are crashing up against a lesser-known statue in the larger no-fault legislation package – one that orders judges to follow a very strict formula for awarding temporary alimony during divorce.
Issue with the No-Fault Alimony Statute
The statute was designed to help low-income spouses have the means to hire an attorney; an expense that starts in the thousands of dollars, and can rise quite rapidly from there. However, according to a host of critics – from lawyers to divorcing spouses – the statute isn’t providing justice; it’s perverting it by forcing financially well-off spouses to overpay.
“It really impacts the payer spouse in a way that sometimes is draconian,” commented Sondra Miller, a divorce mediator and retired judge. “It’s not a well-thought-out piece of legislation.”
Miller isn’t alone. No less than the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York has called for the statute to be pulled off the books.
However, not everyone is up in arms over what’s infolding in the Empire State.
Giving the Non-Moneyed Spouse a Fair Share
“I actually think it’s a good law, and I differ with most of the matrimonial lawyers,” commented Harold Mayerson, a Manhatten-based attorney. “You need to look at what the law was trying to do, and it was trying to remedy a problem throughout the state of New York that judges were not being uniform in terms of trying to see that the non-moneyed spouse got a fair share… There are areas that have to be clarified, but that is not the first time the Legislature passes a law that needs clarification from the courts.”
Currently, the controversial statute is being reviewed by New York’s independent Law Revision Commission, which is expected to deliver a report next month.
Although the Commission’s findings won’t be binding, it’s expected that it’ll carry enough weight to spark legislators into taking action – though they’ll have to hurry, as the current legislative session ends in June, leaving precious little time for the frustration to revert back to celebration.
Source: The Wall Street Journal