Special Relief is defined as a direction to a spouse to maintain life, health, accident, medical and dental insurance for his spouse and/or children. It is available in any matrimonial action. The insurance may be in effect during a period of time fixed by the Court. The insurance must end upon the termination of the spouse's obligation to pay maintenance, child support, a distributive award, or when the beneficiary remarries or predeceases the insured.
Special relief may include a direction to: (1) Purchase, maintain or assign a policy of insurance for health and hospital care and related services for either spouse or children; Insurance cannot be for longer than party is obligated to pay maintenance, child support or a distributive award; (2) Purchase, maintain or assign a policy of insurance on the life of either spouse and designate either spouse or children of the marriage as irrevocable beneficiary.
DRL '236, Part B, Subdivision 8(a) was enacted to compensate for the earlier inadequacies of the law. It permits the court, in the absence of an agreement, to order insurance protection for the family. The husband or father, for example, may be ordered by the court to "purchase, maintain, or assign" insurance coverage on his life, naming the wife and children as irrevocable beneficiaries. Likewise, the statute authorizes the court to require a spouse to maintain or obtain medical, health and hospital insurance for the protection of the family. Once the husband's obligation to pay maintenance and/or child support is ended, however, he is free to cancel the policies, or to name other beneficiaries.
The need for health, hospital and similar insurance coverage is doubtless. In the case of both maintenance and child support, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, since the support obligation ceases upon the death of the obligor, it is not a charge against the estate.
The life insurance provisions of subdivision 8(a), make certain, among other things, that the payment of maintenance, distributive awards and child support are made as ordered. If under subdivision 8(a) children are required to be designated as the beneficiaries of life insurance, such designation ceases when they reach majority and another beneficiary may be named in their place. If under that section the wife is required to be designated as the beneficiary of the husband's policy, the designation may be revoked if she remarries or predeceases the insured.
It has been held that where a spouse is denied an award of maintenance, an award of special relief, such as life insurance, would be inappropriate because there is no reason for the insurance coverage.
DRL '236, Part B, subdivision 8, authorizes the court to make an order directing a party to purchase, maintain or assign life insurance on his or her life and to provide health insurance on both pendente lite applications and in the final judgment in a matrimonial action.
In Merrick v. Merrick, Justice Saxe made a pendente lite order in which he directed the husband to post security of $220,000 or about one year's temporary support, to be held by the wife as receiver, and directed that if security were not posted, the wife was entitled to submit a further order to the court providing for sequestration of the husband's assets. Justice Saxe also directed the husband to obtain life insurance coverage of $1 million, naming the wife as irrevocable beneficiary. He noted that DRL s 236(B)(8)(a) authorizes the court to direct a party to obtain life insurance and to designate the other spouse as irrevocable beneficiary and that the statute was enacted to remedy the prior law under which courts were not authorized to order insurance coverage.  "The purpose of subdivision 8(a), therefore, is to make certain that the payment of maintenance, distributive awards and child support are made as ordered." He noted that the statute had been applied to pendente lite support awards as well as final determinations.
In Sullivan v. Sullivan, the parties were married in 1958 and separated in 1982. In 1983, the husband commenced a divorce action in Westchester County. In 1987, after trial, the Supreme Court dismissed the action, since the husband failed to establish grounds for divorce, while awarding the wife $8,000 per month maintenance. In 1987, the husband again sued for divorce this time in Illinois. He was granted a divorce in 1989 on grounds of irreconcilable differences. The husband then brought an action in New York for equitable distribution and for a downward modification of the Supreme Court's prior maintenance award. Justice Saxe directed the husband to name the wife as beneficiary of an insurance policy on his life in the amount of $1 million. In this case, the court had previously made an order requiring the husband to pay $8,000 per month lifetime maintenance to the 58-year-old wife. Justice Saxe concluded that the insurance was appropriate because the wife would still have a right to equitable distribution if the husband died during the pendency of the proceedings and that her monthly maintenance payments would stop immediately upon the husband's death, without her having any clearcut immediate entitlement to funds with which to continue to support herself, as it was not clear that any ultimate entitlement to equitable distribution would be sufficient to support her.
In Zerilli v. Zerilli, the Appellate Division simply stated that in view of the wife's lack of income and assets, the trial court should have granted the parts of her omnibus motion seeking from her husband life insurance coverage pendente lite.
In Kalnins v. Kalnins, the parties married in 1972 and the husband abandoned his wife in 1981. Before that the wife suffered permanent brain damage in an auto accident. The action was commenced in April 1986. The husband, who earned $83,000 a year in 1986, was directed to pay $3,500 per month permanent maintenance to his 43-year-old wife. He was awarded all of the marital assets (valued at $411,753). In light of the high permanent maintenance obligation he was directed to buy a single premium annuity and bridge life insurance [to assure payments of $3,500 a month for the wife when he retires at age 65 (cost $150,000)] or a $750,000 life insurance policy for plaintiff, and medical insurance for plaintiff until she was entitled to Medicaid.
In Price v. Price, the Appellate Division stated that the husband should have been directed to obtain and keep in effect a life insurance policy for the benefit of the children, given the husband's age and the age of his children.
In Delaney v. Delaney, the Appellate Division held that the divorced wife, rather than the infant children of the parties, should be properly designated as beneficiaries of the divorced husband's life insurance policies, because the wife would be otherwise unprotected if her husband predeceased her. Additionally, the children would not be disadvantaged by such a ruling since it appeared that they had been and would continue to be well provided for.
In Bofford v. Bofford,  the Appellate Division held that the daughter and wife, who received a distributive award from the husband in the matrimonial action, were entitled to have the husband maintain a life insurance policy on his life for their benefit that was to be in the amount of the unpaid balance of the distributive award.
Notably, few appellate decisions discuss the health insurance questions, and not one reported case mentions employer-provided health insurance coverage.
Shafer v. Shafer, held that there was no reason to require the defendant-husband to go to the expense of buying a new health policy, since the plaintiff-wife already had insurance coverage for their child through her employment.
In Jerkovich v. Jerkovich,  the husband appealed from portions of a judgment of Special Term that directed him to name his children as dependents on his health insurance policy without specifying when the coverage may be terminated. The Appellate Division modified the judgment, holding that while Supreme Court was expressly authorized to direct the husband to maintain both his health insurance policy and his life insurance policy for the benefit of his minor children, it had erred in failing to fix the duration of such policies.
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 See New York Domestic Relations Law '236[B]
 See New York Domestic Relations Law '236[B]
 DRL '240; See, e.g., Byrne v Byrne, 201 Misc. 913, 112 NYS2d 569; Lund v. Lund, 196 Misc. 136, 91 NYS2d 698; Re Van Ardsdale's Will, 190 Misc. 968, 75 NYS2d 487.