New York lawmakers consider changing alimony laws

A long-awaited review of some controversial New York divorce laws has finally been made available to state lawmakers. The Law Revision Commission took a close look at the state's formula for determining alimony, as well as the legal precedent that categorizes professional licenses and degrees as marital property.

Three years ago, legislators passed a law that created a formula for awarding alimony. The purpose of the law was to offer a more consistent approach to alimony awards, especially for New Yorkers who can't afford to hire attorneys.

The problem, though, was that the formula was applied in cases in which the parties had an annual income of up to $524,000. When the Law Revision Commission sent out 7,300 surveys to divorcing spouses, many of the people on the higher end of that spectrum said the alimony formula didn't adequately address matters such as savings accounts, bonuses and mortgages.

Heeding the grievances of high-earners, the commission recommended lowering the formula threshold to $136,000. That change, if enacted, would still mean that 85 percent of New Yorkers could have the alimony formula applied in their divorces. People with more complex assets would settle their property division and alimony concerns beyond the reach of the formula.

The commission also recommended tossing the precedent that professional degrees should be regarded as marital assets. Currently, in a divorce settlement, a spouse can get up to 50 percent of the other spouse's predicted earnings that result from a professional degree or license. That can be the case even if the licensed spouse never earns the predicted amount.

The recommendations have not yet been passed into law, and we'll have to wait to see if legislators get around to making any changes during this legislative session.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "New York Divorce Law Moves Closer To Overhaul," Sophia Hollander, May 17, 2013

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