Historically, December is one of the most popular months for marriage proposals, but that's not the case for divorce filings. Nationwide, divorce filings surge after the first of January. This December, however, is going to be different for wealthy New Yorkers.
This fall, a new law was passed by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will go into effect on Jan. 25, establishing a new formula for alimony or "maintenance" in New York.
As of Jan. 25, the income that can be considered for determining maintenance will be capped at $175,000, a significant decrease from the previous threshold of $524,000. The new law also limits how long post-divorce spousal support can last, and it ends all maintenance payments in the event of remarriage or death.
While this law won't likely affect the middleclass, it will affect wealthy spouses and result in a lowered payment burden for paying spouses in high-net-worth divorces.
Divorce lawyers agree that this new change will impact moneyed parties favorably. If you're a high-net-worth individual and you live in New York, it'll benefit you to stall the divorce filing. If you're the non-moneyed spouse, you want to get your divorce filed before the changes take effect.
Presently, maintenance in New York is awarded based on a number of factors, such as the age and health of both parties, the length of the marriage, each party's income and assets, and contributions as a homemaker, etc.
In New York, maintenance awards were all over the place and they varied widely from case-to-case and county-to-county. Since there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to them, the legislation was passed to standardize it.
John Slowiaczek, president-elect of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said that for the people who are on the fence about divorce, this may push them to file sooner than later.
Slowiaczek said it's not unusual to see a spike in divorces after the holidays, especially after the first of the year. This year, he said, there may be a larger spike in New York by virtue of the new legislation.
According to Slowiaczek, the people who are going to be crushed by the changes are the ones in long-term relationships who have been out of the workforce for 20 years or more and expect to be taken care of by their spouse if they divorce. He said this is really going to hurt that segment of society.
Slowiaczek told CNBC that nationwide, there's been a growing trend towards reducing or eliminating spousal support. Part of what's driving that is the culture of successful working women and the two-income family, he said.