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Dynamics of divorce law highlight value of legal help

Just because Arizona law has provisions for no-fault divorce does not mean that the process equates to being simple. What no-fault means in the context of Arizona is that one spouse does not need to prove the other did something illicit to warrant dissolution of the marriage. Delicate issues regarding alimony, child custody and property division still come into play and it's advisable to have the help of experienced legal counsel.

While most divorce never makes headlines, the complexity of the laws are such that sometimes even the courts have a hard time getting things right and that becomes fodder for the media. A case out of New York stands as a case in point.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the divorce of a Nassau County couple in which the judge did a significant about-face regarding support payments. Back in March 2011, the judge ruled that the investment banker ex-husband should pay the guidance counselor ex-wife more than $17,000 a month, even though his monthly net pay at the time was just $12,775. Her annual earnings are $103,000. Additionally, the banker lost his job back in August.

On March 12, the judge issued a decision saying that his first ruling was "unjust and inappropriate" and he cut the amounts the ex-husband should pay in temporary alimony from nearly $11,000 to $5,000. Support for three children was trimmed from about $2,600 to $2,000.

Specifically, the judge said in his reassessment that he hadn't considered the full financial effect that his initial directive would have on the parties in the context of their economic realities on a month to month basis.

Legal observers say the case was among the first in which 2010 no-fault divorce law provisions required the application of a strict formula to set temporary alimony and child support levels, replacing some judicial discretion. The intention of using the stricter method was meant to drive more consistent finance-related decisions. But observers say the formula wasn't thought out as well as it might have been and the result has been some unfairness, confusion among judges and lengthy trials.

New York's independent Law Revision Commission, noting the confusion, is reviewing the laws and s expected to release thoughts on modifications later this month.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Divorce Ruling Revised," Sophia Hollander, April 1, 2012

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