Pending Bill in New York Assembly With Respect to Divorce and Child Support Standards Act

There is a bill pending in New York Legislature that could, if passed, make significant changes to New York’s laws dealing with divorce and child support. Assembly Bill A10446 represents a comprehensive effort to reform New York`s divorce and child support laws. The bill contains four major elements: (1) simplifies the grounds for divorce by replacing current grounds with no-fault grounds; (2) adopts a new approach to maintenance, referred to as post-marital income, by establishing guidelines for determining awards of post-marital income; (3)
establishes the right to counsel for a spouse who cannot reasonably afford counsel where the other spouse has obtained or can reasonably afford counsel; and (4) increases the cap on combined parental income used to determine the amount of child support from $80,000 to $500,000, as adjusted annually for any change in the cost of living.

It is the last provision that is particularly interesting since there is a significant body of law holding that the $80,000 is the presumptive cap, and in order to calculate child support on combined parental income beyond $80,000, the court must explain its reasoning and provide appropriate justification for its actions in the decision. Even under the present statute, the court can determine whether or not to exceed the cap and may consider other factors in determining the full support amount. If the bill passes, it is possible that child support in situations involving high parental income will significantly exceed the children’s needs or any expenses associated with raising the children.

The likelihood of the bill passing into law is difficult to estimate since the bill includes provisions that would amount to a no-fault divorce. Past efforts to pass legislation allowing no-fault divorce in New York State were unsuccessful in view of significant opposition from a variety of different groups.

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