Written by attorney Kristen Prata Browde

New Summary of the Changes in New York Divorce Law

This is direct from the court system, and is a great summary of the changes in New York's divorce law. These changes took effect October 12, 2010.

New Matrimonial Legislation Highlights

"No-Fault" Divorce:

  • There is now a seventh ground for divorce, for proceedings filed on or after October 12, 2010, which does not require the parties to allege fault.
  • To qualify for a no-fault divorce, one of the parties must have sworn under oath that the relationship between husband and wife has broken down "irretrievably" for a period of at least six months. Also, all ancillary issues relating to finances, and custody and visitation must have been resolved and incorporated in the judgment of divorce.
  • The Uncontested Divorce Packet now contains the instructionsand forms to obtain a "no-fault divorce."

Temporary Spousal Maintenance

  • When a spouse asks the court for temporary spousal maintenance in a divorce action, the law now requires the Supreme Court to use formula guidelines for determining the award on income up to $500,000.
  • Requests for temporary spousal maintenance should not be made using the Uncontested Divorce Packet. This packet is designed for requests for final maintenance awards only.
  • See the new Temporary Maintenance Guidelines Worksheet and Calculator for determining the guideline amounts in cases begun in Supreme Court after October 12, 2010.
  • If the court lacks enough information about income to apply the formula, the court must award temporary spousal maintenance based on needs or standard of living, whichever is greater.
  • The court will consider factors rather than the formula with regard to awards on income in excess of $500,000 and whether to follow the formula for temporary maintenance awards that are unjust or inappropriate;

Awards of Post Divorce Final Maintenance

  • No formula yet! The court will continue to consider standard of living and needs and factors for the time being, but new factors have been added for the court's consideration.
  • The Law Revision Commission is studying the maintenance laws of New York State with regard to fairness. A final report is due to the Legislature by December 31, 2011.

Counsel and Expert Fees:

  • The law now requires the court in most cases to grant requests of the spouse with less money for payment of their counsel fees by the spouse with more money at any time from commencement to the end of the action. The burden is now on the "monied spouse" to show why the request of the "non-monied" spouse should not be granted. The court may also award expert fees.
  • The purpose of the new law is to make sure that the parties are adequately represented.

Modification of Child Support Orders:

  • The law now allows parties to seek a modification of a child support order upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances, when three years have passed since the order was entered, or when there has been a change in either party's gross income by fifteen percent (15%) or more.
  • There are new provisions allowing incarcerated spouses to seek modification of child support orders, except where incarceration is the result of failure to pay child support, or an offense against the custodial parent, or the child whose support is involved.

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