Update on Second Department Case Impacting Degrees, Enhances Earnings Capacity Awards in New York Divorces by New York Divorce Attorney Lisa Beth Older

Lately, Courts in divorce actions in New York have started to reduce awards that have to do with enhanced earnings made from a non-titled spouse’s interest in a titled spouse’s degree, license or education from 50% share to 25%, especially if your New York Divorce Action is pending in the Second Department of New York Supreme Court. The most illustrative and recent case is described is Haspel vs. Haspel, 2010 N.Y. Slip. Op. 08530 (2nd Dept. 2010) and said case illustrates this issue very well.

In Haspel, a New York Divorce case, says New York divorce lawyer Lisa Beth Older, the trial court granted to the wife 50% of the husband’s enhanced earnings which resulted from his acquisition of several professional licenses, including, several securities dealer’s licenses and a real estate broker’s license. The trial court’s decision was appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed it, and also modified the trial court’s decision.

Specifically, the Appellate Division OVERTURNED the trial court and instead held that the wife was entitled to only 25% of husband’s enhanced earnings. The Court made this ruling on the following facts: The marriage lasted 23 years, they had two children, and at the time of trial, the plaintiff was 52 years old and the defendant was 49 years old. The wife was also going to receive spousal maintenance.

Written by New York Divorce Lawyer Lisa Beth Older

Thus, unequal division of enhanced earnings has found a spot on the map. If you are the the non-titled spouse and you were married to a spouse that obtained a degree, be sure you log your contributions to obtaining that degree carefully if you want to succeed in arguing that you should receive more than 25% of such enhanced earnings.

That said, since the lower court’s decision was held to have “double counted” the same income for “enhanced earnings” and maintenance the case was remanded back to the lower court judge in the New York Supreme Court in order that a proper amount of maintenance be calculated, given the reduction of the award as to enhanced earnings.

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