Recently, the divorce attorneys at the firm have blogged about proposed changes in divorce laws sweeping the Nation. Legislators in many states throughout the U.S. seem to think that current family law statues have gone stale. Currently, a new bill is awaiting passage in New York State that, if passed, would be an overhaul of current family law legislation. The passage of the new bill is hotly debated by New York family law attorneys who are all rallying for support for their respective sides of the issue.
As New York law is presently written, licenses and professional degrees earned during marriage are community assets. Since such assets are not easily quantifiable and divisible, judges and financial experts calculate the earning potential of the spouse who acquired the degree or license and award the other spouse a percentage of those future earnings. This law is criticized as being extremely unfair because there is no provision changing the award if the spouse switches careers or suffers an injury. In California, licenses and professional degrees are not community assets which can be divided upon divorce. However, the community may have a right to reimbursement for any funds spent on tuition and other educational expenses. New York's proposed bill would eliminate the current law on the books; however, it is unclear if anything (possibly similar to California's law) will replace it.
New York family codes may also be changed with regard to calculation of "permanent" spousal support (commonly referred to as alimony). The proposed legislation calculates the duration of spousal support awards based on a formula which takes into account the length of the marriage. For example, if the parties were married for 7.5 years, spousal support will be awarded for 40% of that time or 3 years. Under California "permanent" spousal support code provisions, Family Courts do not generally set a termination date for spousal support especially if the marriage is long term (over 10 years). Rather, the Court basis its award on fourteen factors including the supporting spouse's ability to pay and the supported spouse's need for support.
The proposed bill would also change the New York law terminating spousal support payments if the supported spouse remarries. Under the new law, spousal support would only terminate if the supported spouse's new marriage substantially improved his/her financial situation. Currently, California and New York have the same law on this issue. However, with so much family law reform throughout the U.S., California may see some change in the near future.