Elizabeth DiPirro sits down with Michael Canfiend of the Buffalo Law Journal to discuss catalysts for changes in spousal maintenance.
BLJ: Changing economics drive practice
When Elizabeth DiPirro of Rupp Baase Pfalzgraf Cunningham LLC started practicing matrimonial law nearly 30 years ago, women were primarily the caretakers who stayed home with the children, often putting their careers and education on the back burner.
“The whole point of spousal maintenance was to get them to rehabilitate them to a point where they could be self-supportive and try to get them back on track with their careers educationally or in terms of experience,” she said.
What changed over the decades, especially in cities such as Buffalo that were dependent on a strong manufacturing job base, is that family incomes dropped, leading to more stress.
When factories closed, more women entered the workforce and pursued careers to either compensate for the lost income or to become the main income provider.
“What you’ve really seen happen, especially over the course of my career, is the transition of men who are stay-at-home dads and women who are career-oriented and have become the primary breadwinner because of the economics in the area,” said DiPirro, a partner at Rupp Baase.
While the statute on spousal maintenance is gender neutral in New York, she said men often are reluctant to pursue alimony payments.
“I think it’s still just a little bit of a cognitive block,” she said. “It’s definitely evolving and the courts are recognizing but for the fact that it’s a man, you’d be applying the statute the same way.”