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Reform of New York divorce reforms stalled by slow review

Many in New York cheered in 2010 when the state approved the availability of no-fault divorce. Our state was the last in the nation to get onto the no-fault bandwagon and the move was accompanied by strict rules for how courts should handle awards for temporary alimony.

Since its implementation, however, the law and its formulas for the determination of spousal support during the divorce process have proven to be troublesome. Many lawyers have complained that while the structure may work well in cases involving lower-income couples, awards become lopsided the higher up the income ladder a couple happens to be.

In response to these and other concerns, The Independent Law Revision Commission was formed to examine possible changes in the law. The hope was that the legislature would have recommendations in hand in time to take some remedial action before the current session ends next month. But it's not looking good. The panel is four months late and says it doesn't expect a report now before May 31.

The big issue expressed by many family law practitioners is that the no-fault formula structures, while apparently working well for lower-income couples, tends to spur litigation among higher-income couples. To counter that, commission members are said to be looking at recommending narrowing the income range to which the formula would apply.

The current law requires the formula to apply for couples making up to $524,000 a year. Commission members say the hope would be that by lowering that cap, courts would have more flexibility to exercise judicial discretion in setting temporary spousal support awards.

The big question is, when might possible reforms of the reform actually get to the legislature?

Source:, "Delays Slow Review of Divorce Laws," Sophia Hollander, May 13, 2012