In 2010, New York State enacted legislation that set guidelines for temporary
spousal support (maintenance), during the course of a divorce. The goal
was to provide a support award that would be fair and predictable in each
case. The gaol was lofty; and failed miserably. As things now stand, both
the payor spouse and the payee spouse are treated unfairly.
In a nutshell, the exact maintenance awarded is based upon the following
calculation --- either 30 percent of the higher income less 20 percent
of the lessor income, or 40 percent of the combined incomes less the lesser
income, whichever is less! Using this formula, assume Spouse A earns $60,000
per year, and Spouse B earns $120,000 per year. Spouse A would then receive
$12,000 per year in temporary support (40 percent of $120,000 plus $60,000,
less the $60,000).
Beware, however, as the support calculation is not applied to the entirety
of the parties' incomes. The income for these calculations is capped
at $524,000 per year. Accordingly, if one spouse earns $524,000 per year
and the other has no income, the top temporary maintenance award will
be $157,200 per year.
Based on the information gathered by the
Wall Street Journal, the law has primarily helped low-income spouses. It has failed to achieve
its goals in cases with high-income couples. It does not, for example,
take into consideration mortgage payments that need to be made during
the divorce process. In more than a few cases, application of the guidelines
has actually resulted in the higher-income spouse being required to pay
more than his or her monthly income!
The moral of this story .... the client must be exceedingly careful when
either seeking temporary support or defending against an application for
temporary support. There is far, far more than meets the eye when it comes
to the law, and an experienced matrimonial attorney should be advising
the client before things go terribly wrong in the support arena.