Position Statement – 2017
A.6049 / S.4569
Temporary Spousal Support
The Women’s Bar Association of New York (WBASNY) supports bill A.6049 (Mayer, Weinstein) / S.4569 (Savino), which would permit Family Courts to award temporary spousal support to victims when issuing temporary orders of protection.
An order of protection is one of the most valuable legal tools for reducing incidents of abuse. Studies indicate that the majority of victims who are granted orders of protection feel that they are protected from repeated incidents of physical and psychological abuse, in addition to helping them regain a sense of well-being. However, for many of the victims, economic dependency is a substantial factor preventing them from seeking reprieve from their abuser in court.
For thousands of domestic violence victims, the first step towards leaving their abuser is to file a petition for a temporary order of protection in Family Court. Often, once individuals take this step, their abuser retaliates by withdrawing financial support, discontinuing payments of rent or mortgage and utilities, and cutting off access to funds in marital bank accounts. As a result, many victims who seek assistance from the court find themselves facing hunger, lack of heat and electricity, and even homelessness. While these individuals can seek financial redress through spousal support petitions or divorce actions, it usually takes several months before the courts can hear those cases and grant any temporary relief. During the intervening period, victims feel forced to choose between a life of violence and a life of poverty, causing many to return to their abusers and discontinue their orders of protection. Domestic violence victims deserve the right to seek safety from their abusers without suffering financial devastation.
To help eliminate this economic barrier to seeking an order of protection, thirty-six (36) states currently permit domestic violence victims to obtain temporary spousal support at the time a temporary order of protection is issued. A.6049/S.4569, as recommended by the Family Court Advisory and Rules Committee and introduced at the request of the Chief Administrative Judge, would bring this remedy to New York’s Family Courts, permitting them to award temporary spousal support to victims within seven (7) business days of filing for temporary orders of protection, giving them financial support to bridge the gap until their spousal support petition or divorce can be heard by the courts. This change in the law is critically important for victims who are elderly, pregnant, and those without minor children who do not qualify for temporary child support.
Domestic violence victims already face numerous obstacles when making the choice to leave their abusers. We strongly believe that if the New York State Legislature passes A.6049/S.4569, more domestic violence victims will be empowered to seek the safety that an order of protection can provide.
For the foregoing reasons, WBASNY urges the Legislature to pass A.6049/S.4569.