New York State Divorce and Family Law Legislative Updates

Domestic violence as a factor in equitable distribution determinations

In late July, 2020, the New York State Equitable Distribution Law was modified to include domestic New York State family law changesviolence as a factor in equitable distribution determinations.  As part of the Public Protection language bill enacted as part of the NYS budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021, Domestic Relations Law §236B(5)(d)(14) was amended to add a new factor for consideration in determining equitable distribution, that is, “whether either party has committed an act or acts of domestic violence...against the other party and the nature, extent, duration and impact of such act or acts.”

The statute incorporates the definition of domestic violence in Social Services Law §459-a(1), that is, violations of the Penal Law resulting in actual or a risk of physical or emotional harm to the other party or the party’s child. The Penal Law violation covered include, but are not limited to, disorderly conduct, harassment, aggravated harassment, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, sexual abuse, stalking, criminal mischief, menacing, reckless endangerment, kidnapping, assault, attempted assault, attempted murder, criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, strangulation, identity theft, grand larceny or coercion.3

It should be noted that domestic violence, as defined in Social Services Law §459-a(1), is already a factor in determining temporary and post-divorce spousal maintenance to the extent that the domestic violence has inhibited or “continues to inhibit a party’s earning capacity or ability to obtain meaningful employment.,” in accordance with Domestic Relations Law §§236B(5-a)(h)(1)(g) and 236B(6)(e)(1)(g).   This new amendment to the New York State domestic relations law is effective as of May 3, 2020 and  applicable to matrimonial actions commenced on or after that date.

Orders of Protection prohibition against remotely controlling a protected party’s devices

Article 8 of the New York State Family Court Act regarding Orders of Protection was also amended to now include a prohibition against remotely controlling a protected party’s devices [Laws of 2020, ch. 261; A 10039]. This bill adds a new condition for criminal and civil orders of protection that would prohibit a party from remotely controlling an “connected device affecting the home, vehicle or property” of a protected party.

A “connected device” is defined as “any device or physical object that is capable of connecting to the Internet, directly or indirectly, and that is assigned an Internet protocol address or Bluetooth address” The orders covered include temporary and final orders in criminal family and non-family offense cases, as well as Family Court juvenile delinquency, child support, paternity, custody and visitation, Persons in Need of Supervision, family offense, and child abuse and neglect cases, and matrimonial proceedings in Supreme Court.  This new law is effective as of  November 11, 2020.

Both of the above discussed newly passed laws are another tool that can be used to help a person leave a relationship they no longer wish to be a part of.  These new laws give a person the ability to leave with financial, virtual and physical security.  If you need assistance please call Chester, New York divorce attorneys at 845-469-9529.