Leonard Stein-Sapir & Jan Stein-Sapir's divorce stipulation should be modified

DIVORCE NEWS, NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL, NEW YORK
Leonard and Jan Stein-Sapir were married way back in the 1960’s. After a honeymoon in Mexico, they went to Australia for a couple of years where he was a Fulbright scholar. Then they returned to New York and separated in 1967.  I believe they officially divorced in 1974? And Leonard was ordered to pay Jan $100 per month in alimony.
35 years later, Jan is homeless and Leonard is an affluent businessman of 71 years of age. Jan brought suit for an upward modification of spousal support/alimony, given the circumstances of her plight (she is homeless!) and Leonard’s deep pockets. She needs $100,000 in medical and dental aid and she also needs an apartment.
The Manhattan judge who heard the case declined to give Jan a dime. He basically came out and said that Leonard is not responsible for Jan anymore and her life is her responsibility and all she would continue to get (till death, I assume) is $100 per month.
Hello?
See, I don’t agree with this ruling and I am disappointed that a court of competent jurisdiction failed to use an opportunity to flex it’s creative muscles here. If I were Jan, I would appeal this decision and I would take it all the way till someone on the bench interpreted the laws as they relate to this issue correctly.
The fact is, notwithstanding the short duration of their marriage, Jan and Leonard were married at one point and married couples are contractually responsible for each other’s care pursuant to ARTICLE 4 of the FAMILY COURT ACT (FCA) and where you have a spouse on the welfare rolls (and is actually living on the streets) and the other affluent, following divorce, I think an exception ought to be made on a case by case basis to allow for a modification of whatever stipulation they entered into at the time of the divorce to prevent this inequity.
I think it is relevant that this marriage was prior to the enactment of the Equitable Distributions Laws in New York. Back in the 1960’s when the Stein-Sapirs were married and divorced, alimony was to continue till the parties died, or till court modification and was “originally developed as a means of providing support for women after the termination of the marriage during an era when men controlled family property and opportunities for women in the business world were non-existent.” Furthermore, the “purpose of alimony was to ‘provide suitably’ for the support of the wife, ‘as in the court’s discretion, justice requires, having regard to the length of time of the marriage, the ability of the [wife] to be self-supporting, the circumstances of the case, and of the respective parties.” DOMESTIC RELATIONS LAWS SECTION 236 PART A(1). I think the Stein-Sapirs should be grandfathered into this scheme and not held to the standard of the Equitable Distribution scheme of the 1980’s and beyond.
After all, Leonard Stein-Sapir is paying his ex wife $100 per month so clearly, this “divorce” is still “active.” In the sense that, it’s not like there was a lump sum payment 40 years ago and they never heard from each other again. He is still paying her, thus, he is still responsible for her to some degree and there is still an agreement in place that binds them; the only thing is the sum agreed to is paltry and needs to be increased. I mean, really, $100? What kind of joke is that? In 1974 it probably made sense but circumstances have changed drastically and I think there is, or should be a mechanism in the law to make some adjustments here, in this particular case. I am not saying that all divorcing couples should be able to go back and rewrite their divorce agreement – especially now that we are in the post-Equitable Distribution Era. But in extreme and extenuating circumstances like we have here with the Stein-Sapirs, equity demands a divergence from the “normal” course of action. This woman is a senior citizen who is homeless and her former spouse is affluent.  Clearly, she received life-long alimony (but only $100) and because of the circumstances of her homelessness and her former spouse’s affluence, the court needed to use it’s discretion and modify that alimony award. I mean, that is pretty obvious to me and I can’t understand, with all due respect, why it wasn’t pretty obvious to the court.