Recent changes in New York matrimonial law may compel a spouse who has been procrastinating to commence a divorce action to finally do so.
Degrees and Licenses
For divorce actions that are commenced after January 25, 2016, the courts will no longer consider the value of an educational degree or professional license earned during the parties' marriage as an asset to be valued and considered in the marital pot and subject to equitable distribution. These licenses and degrees may sometimes be valued in the millions, depending on the factual circumstances of the degree/license holder, and may often be the largest marital asset in the marital estate.
Therefore, if your spouse earned a degree or license during the marriage, it may be in your best interest to commence the action prior to January 25, 2016, whereas if you are the degree or license holder, it may be in your best interest to commence the action after this date.
Impact on Maintenance
On June 25, 2015, the New York legislature passed the Office of Court Administration's Maintenance Guidelines legislation. Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law on September 25, 2015. The temporary maintenance provisions become effective October 26, 2015 and the permanent maintenance provisions and balance of the law (i.e. eradication of valuing degrees and licenses earned during the marriage) is effective January 25, 2016.
The new legislation changes the way temporary maintenance is calculated, provides a formula for post-divorce maintenance, different calculations for households with and without children, as well as advisory guidelines as to the duration of support based on the length of the marriage. It caps income at $175,000 with bi-annual Consumer Price Index increases (reduced from the current cap of $543,000), although the court has discretion to go above the cap. The court will no longer distribute the value of the enhanced earnings of a license, degree, or celebrity goodwill, but shall consider the direct or indirect contributions of one spouse to the enhanced earning capacity of the other spouse for purposes of equitable distribution. Actual or partial retirement is now a grounds for modification.
Given these changes in the law, an early consultation with our firm is your best strategy to understand what to expect and reduce fear of the divorce process. Knowledge is power. You owe it to yourself to become fully informed to make the best decision for you and your children.