Last week, the New York State Law Revision Commission released their “Final Report on Maintenance Awards in Divorce Proceedings.” The report was originally scheduled to be released in December 2011 but had been delayed for about 18 months due to overwhelming concerns regarding the existing maintenance law.
Currently, New York’s temporary maintenance law establishes a formula to determine maintenance (what was formerly known as alimony) awards during the course of the divorce action. The existing formula applies to combined earnings up to $524,000 but the new report suggests that the law should be modified to only include earnings up to $136,000. For any income in excess of $136,000 the judge would be permitted to award additional maintenance according to a set of factors set forth by the statute.
The report also suggests abolishing New York’s rule of counting the value of a professional license or degree as marital property which is subject to equitable distribution. This rule, established in the Court of Appeals case of O’Brien v. O’Brien (66 NY2d 576), usually requires the parties to spend tremendous sums of money hiring experts to attempt to determine the “increased earning capacity” associated with a party’s license or degree.
The report is merely a recommendation but state legislators rely heavily on the Law Revision Commission when considering adopting or modifying any law.