Articles Posted in Economics and Divorce

The issue of temporary maintenance for a spouse pending the conclusion of a divorce is often a challenging and divisive aspect of the divorce or separation process, and clarity in how awards should be granted is a key aspect of promoting equity. Kudos to the First Department for providing clarity to the new temporary maintenance guidelines that were signed into law in 2010. In what is the first Appellate Division case to date interpreting this legislation, in Khaira v. Khaira, the Appellate Division First Department ruled that it was an error of a motion court to duplicate an award of temporary maintenance by directing the husband to pay in accordance with the formula set forth in the guidelines and then adding an obligation that he pay the wife’s housing expenses as well.

By way of background, the legislature’s approach to temporary maintenance awards experienced a seismic change in 2010 when Domestic Relations Law § 236(B)(5-a) was signed into law, bringing with it a formula that must be used to determine the amount of support. Before it was passed, judges had much more leeway in ordering temporary maintenance. The statute, which is designed to create greater consistency, requires the court to explain any deviation that it makes from the result which is calculated using a specific formula. Rather than aiming merely to “tide over” the non-monied spouse, the new provision creates a substantial presumptive entitlement based upon a formula using a percentage of each spouse’s income.

Initially, many divorce lawyers were not happy about the new law, as they considered it to be both rigid and potentially inequitable.

When collaborative divorce was first developed, it was a process that involved two attorneys and their clients. The attorneys not only counseled and advised their clients about the law, but also about the financial and child-related issues that needed to be resolved. And they did their best to help with the emotional and communication issues that inevitably arose during the divorce process.

Collaborative attorneys eventually realized that while they were the best source of legal information and advice for their clients, this wasn’t necessarily the case when it came to financial issues, child development issues and communication issues. Instead, collaborative attorneys realized it made more sense to refer their clients to other professionals who had specialized training in these areas. And that’s when the team approach to collaborative divorce began.

Today the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals and other practice groups train financial professionals, divorce coaches and child specialists alongside lawyers in collaborative practice. As a result, the team approach to collaborative divorce has become more commonplace.

NPR reported this week that the divorce rate is on the rebound due to the fact that the economy is improving. Some of the reasons cited for this change are the fact that credit is getting somewhat easier to obtain, investment and retirement accounts are benefiting from the rise in the stock market and housing prices are no longer in free fall. I see all of these factors playing a role in my clients’ decisions to divorce. But another reason for the increase in cases is that many people have been waiting 2 or 3 years now for their financial situation to improve and they realize they cannot wait any longer. Regardless of whether the economic circumstances are ideal, they have decided to end their marriages. But these clients are not jumping into divorce blindly regardless of the financial consequences. They are ready to face the economic realities head on and figure out a way to allow them to separate from their spouse.

It is for this reason that I strongly recommend that my clients and their spouses hire a financial professional who is certified in divorce financial planning and/or who is certified in collaborative divorce. These professionals can work with one party or with the couple together to help them determine what asset and debt allocation makes the most sense and what support may need to be paid to assure that both parties are living as well as possible post-divorce. If clients to take the time to examine these issues in the divorce process, they have a better chance of achieving their ultimate goals of having more financial security and less emotional stress after the marriage is over.