With a flick of the pen, Governor David Paterson has ended New York's holdout as the only state in the union to disallow no-fault divorce. Prior to the signing of the law, which took effect October 12th, New Yorkers were able to divorce only by proving fault for abandonment, adultery, cruelty or imprisonment.
There was, however, a way for couples to divorce without fault prior to the new law. This required couples to enter into a separation agreement and live apart for at least one year. The catch with this option comes in the agreement; couples had to agree on all of the terms.
Because of the lack of a no-fault divorce option in New York, the law encouraged "institutionalized perjury" - where one spouse falsely accused the other spouse of wrong doing (abuse, adultery, etc.) - in order to proceed with the divorce process.
Minna Buck, a former Family Court Judge, states, "[No-fault divorce] will stop people from lying under oath when they go to court, which is what they do now if they don't want to wait for a year."
Temporary Maintenance Formula
Along with the no-fault divorce bill, Governor Paterson also signed into law a bill that sets forth calculations for temporary spousal maintenance. The formula in the bill is gender neutral - the spouse with the greater income will pay maintenance to the other spouse - and is intended to help the spouse with less money make ends meet throughout the divorce process.
The temporary maintenance formula will determine the amount to be paid as the lower of the following two calculations:
- 40 percent of the combined income of the spouses minus 100 percent of the income of the lower income spouse; or
- 30 percent of the wealthier spouse's income minus 20 percent of the income of the lower income spouse
Those with incomes near the poverty level will not have to pay temporary maintenance and those earning high incomes will only have to pay on the first $500,000 of income.
For questions about no fault divorce in New York or the new temporary maintenance formula, please consult with an experienced family law attorney.