New York adopted temporary maintenance guidelines in 2010. Since their introduction these guidelines have been the source of a significant amount of litigation. The statute contains a formula for the calculation of the presumptive amount of temporary maintenance. It also states that a court may deviate from the presumptive award under the temporary maintenance guidelines if that presumptive award is “unjust or inappropriate.”
In determining whether to deviate from the presumptive amount, the court must consider a broad range of factors. The net result is that awards of temporary maintenance should reflect an accommodation between the reasonable needs of the moving spouse and the financial ability of the other spouse with due regard for the parties’ pre-separation standard of living. Where courts very infrequently deviate from the calculation of presumptive amount child support under the Child Support Standards Act, most courts rarely apply the presumptive amount of temporary maintenance and deviate from it with regularity.
As of January 31, 2014, the Income Cap under the Temporary Maintenance Guidelines was adjusted from $524,000 to $543,000. This change is of little consequence to the vast majority of matrimonial litigants across the state. What might be of more use to matrimonial litigants in upstate New York is a recent decision from the Essex County Supreme Court, which offers an examination of the issue of temporary maintenance from an unusual angle.
In the matter of S.Z. v. P.Z. Justice Robert Mueller was presented with an odd dispute. The parties did not dispute presumptively correct amount of temporary maintenance, which the court determined to be $370 a month. The issue presented to the court was that the husband sought to be able to pay his temporary maintenance in the form of “produce, meats, eggs, vegetables, etc.” from the farm that was located on the same parcel as the marital residence. The court denied his request. Apparently, the husband offered no authority to support his request for such a substitution.
It appears that on its face the decision of the court is correct. The domestic relations law does not specifically authorize the payment of any obligation in anything but currency. However, it does not appear that the husband’s argument may have some merit. The “produce, meats, eggs, vegetables, etc.” that the husband derived from the farm could be counted as income under the Domestic Relations Law. It is not a tremendous leap of logic to then argue that it has value as income these goods should have value as a form of payment. However, since most upstate attorneys have ceased accepting “produce, meats, eggs, vegetables, etc.” as a form of payment, apparently courts will not recognize these goods as an acceptable form of payment for an obligation pursuant to court order.