Carrying Costs and Temporary Maintenance in a Pendente Lite Application

Upon commencement of an action for divorce, frequently the “non-monied” spouse will file a pendente lite motion with the Court. Said motion normally seeks temporary relief pending the litigation. Typically one asks for temporary maintenance, temporary child support and attorney’s fees. There are other things a movant may ask for however, these are the three big topics which are sought. Unfortunately, temporary maintenance is not clearly defined, which leads to differing opinions as to what temporary maintenance covers. Recently, in Woodford v. Woodford, a Second Department decision, the Court attempts to shed some light on temporary maintenance.

In Woodford, the wife moved pendente lite, for temporary maintenance, 100% of the carrying costs of the marital estate and for her attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court ruled that the husband was to pay 100% of the carrying costs, temporary maintenance and to pay $10,000.00 as and for attorney’s fees, with leave to apply for more money should the need arise. As you may know, carrying costs are essentially the costs associated with maintaining and running the household. It includes the mortgage or rent, utilities, cable, internet, phone, the other costs associated with the home. Husband appeals to the Second Department arguing that temporary maintenance should include the carrying costs, thus he should not have to pay both carrying costs and additional monies for maintenance.

Domestic Relations Law §236(B)(5-a) sets for formulas in which the Court is to use to determine the presumptive temporary maintenance award. After determining what the presumptive award should be, if the Court wishes to deviate from said award, it must explain why such deviation was deemed necessary. What the statute does not address is what temporary maintenance is to cover. The Court held in this case, that it is reasonable and logical to think that the temporary maintenance statute was intended to cover all of the wife’s basic living expenses. Therefore the Court vacated that part of the ruling which ordered the husband to pay for both the carrying costs and temporary maintenance and directed the Supreme Court to reconsider the wife’s motion.

This ruling seems to say that carrying costs are part of temporary maintenance. One would think then that the Court, if it wants to award both temporary maintenance and have the “monied” spouse pay for the carrying costs, the Court would then award a larger temporary maintenance award to cover both the carrying costs and provide for temporary maintenance. Ultimately, since the statute is vague and ambiguous as to this point, it rests in the particular Court to which you are arguing your motion. Until the legislature either repeals this statute or clarifies it, the Courts will continue to interpret the temporary maintenance statute in their discretion. Each case will produce different results based on the particular facts of the case, which will then be interpreted in the discretion of the particular Court hearing your motion. Therefore, in preparing your motion, it is imperative that you carefully explain to the Court all your needs so as to put yourself in the best position to obtain an adequate temporary maintenance award.

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