Monday, September 7, 2009

CHANGES IN DIVORCE ACTIONS

Domestic Relations Law [section]236B (2) has been amended to add a paragraph "b" to require that: "The plaintiff shall cause to be served upon the defendant, simultaneous with the service of the summons, a copy of the automatic orders set forth in this paragraph. The automatic orders shall be binding upon the plaintiff in a matrimonial action immediately upon the filing of the summons, or summons and complaint, and upon the defendant immediately upon the service of the automatic orders with the summons. The automatic orders shall remain in full force and effect during the pendency of the action, unless terminated, modified or amended by further order of the court upon motion of either of the parties or upon written agreement between the parties duly executed and acknowledged." The text of the orders (e.g., restraining transfer of propertys, maintaining health insurance and life insurance)can be found online at New York State Senate or Assembly Web sites. The effective date for this requirement is Sept. 1. Matrimonial actions commencing on or after Sept. 1 must have the automatic orders attached to the summons. In addition, Domestic Relations Law [section]177, passed in 2007, which required notification to the parties that a spouse would likely lose health insurance coverage from the other spouse upon the entry of a divorce, has been repealed [section]177 and a new section, [section]255, provides that prior to signing a judgment of divorce or other matrimonial dissolution papers, a court must "ensure that": "1. Both parties have been notified, at such time and by such means as the court shall determine, that once the judgment is signed, a party may or may not be eligible to be covered under the other party's health insurance plan, depending on the terms of the plan. Provided, however, service upon the defendant, simultaneous with the service of the summons, of a notice indicating that once the judgment is signed, a party thereto may or may not be eligible to be covered on the other party's health insurance plan, depending on the terms of the plan, shall be deemed sufficient notice to a defaulting party." Part 2 of the law provides that a "stipulation of settlement/ agreement" entered into between the parties must contain a provision "relating to the health care coverage of each party." This provision must also either "provide for the future coverage of a party or state that each party is aware that he or she will no longer by covered by the other party's health insurance plan" and give notice that the COBRA option may be available. The statute further provides that neither party nor counsel may waive this requirement, and that if "it is not complied with, the court shall require compliance and may grant a thirty-day continuance" to give a party a chance to get his or her own heath insurance. This statute becomes effective Oct. 1, and applies to all actions in which a judgment has not been entered as of that date.

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