Sara Stout Ashcraft, Esq.
After things going fairly slow in family legal matters due to the effects of the pandemic, there are several things happening in family law and the courts this spring, including:
Child Support Calculations
The biennial update of the calculations used to determine child support under the Family Court Act and Domestic Relations Law has been released. The changes include:
Biennial Child Support “Cap” Update: Combined parental income “cap” under the Domestic Relations Law 236B and the Family Court Act for determining child support is now $163,000, up from $154,000.
Individual Self-Support Reserve for 2022: $18,347.
Individual Poverty Income for 2022: $13,590.
Additionally, Child Support Services Refer to Family Court Act and Domestic Relations as well as the Self-Support Reserve and the Individual Poverty Income is available on the March 1, 2022 Child Support Standards Chart, providing actual calculations for income and number of children, which can be accessed at: https://www.childsupport.ny.gov/dcse/pdfs/CSSA.pdfonhttps://www.childsupport.ny.gov/dcse/pdfs/CSSA.pdf.
Spousal Maintenance Calculations
The new “cap” for spousal maintenance calculations under the Domestic Relations Law is $203,000, up from $192,000. This cap is to be applied to the higher income spouse's personal income, although the court has discretion to deviate upward or downward from the pot-divorce statutory calculation amounts as long as the court sets forth “the factors it considered and the reasons for its decision in writing or on the record.” [DRL 236B6d(2)(3)]
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
There is a variety of forms of alternative dispute resolution that can be applied to the matters heading for—or involved in—legal proceedings, including arbitration and mediation. Although the massive changes to the courts due to the pandemic slowed the implementation of ADR, the push by the Office of Court Administration to utilize it in virtually all types of civil cases is again moving forward. Currently, court-driven ADR options for matrimonial and Family Court matters in the 7th Judicial are somewhat limited, but growing:
Arbitration: This is the ADR most like a conventional courtroom, although less formal. Each party presents arguments and evidence support that party's claims. Arbitration may—but is not required—to be designated as “binding,” meaning the arbitrator's decision is final--usually with no opportunity to appeal it to the courts. For matrimonial cases in our area, the only arbitration offered is through the Center for Dispute Settlement. It is binding and only covers distribution of the parties' personal property when they cannot reach agreement.
Mediation: A neutral mediator attempts to help the parties reach a mutually satisfactory settlement of unresolved issues, including child custody and residency, child and spousal support, and distribution of property. Although people often equate family mediation with divorce, it is also used for such Family Court issues as child custody and residency. Mediation may involve counsel for each party, or involve only the parties themselves. In our area, most matrimonial mediation is handled privately by trained mediators, either attorneys or other professionals. If the parties have attorneys, they can prepare the required separation agreement and do the necessary paperwork. If the mediator is an attorney, he or she may draft the legal separation agreement. The Monroe County courts currently have two trained mediators who are available in the courthouse for both matrimonial and Family Court issues. While mediation may be seen by some as a way to avoid litigation in court, it needs to be emphasized that mediation is almost never attempted when there has been domestic violence between the parties and/or their children.
More information on court sponsored ADR training programs is available on the Office of Court Administration website: nycourts.gov.