Today’s blog will be a break from my typical legal analysis of family law issues. Here I focus on tips, facts and suggestions happy child girl with hands thumbs uppertaining to the children of the transitioning families that I have picked up in my time working as a matrimonial, family law attorney and mediator in the great state of New York. As usual, when I veer off my exact topic of expertise, I like to throw in a disclaimer that I am not an expert in psychology or sociology. Therefore, I recommend speaking with trained and licensed therapists that specialize in children and family matters about your questions and to verify the accuracy or inaccuracy of anything in this article.

One statement that I am qualified to make is that parents or parties involved in a child custody and parenting time or visitation case, whether it is pursuant to a divorce or family court custody case, are advised not to talk to the kids about the case. In most instances the court will assign an attorney for the child(ren) who has training and experience in speaking with the kids about the matter. Ultimately the court might hold what is called an “in-camera” interview with the child or children before issuing a decision on custody and parenting time. Continue reading →

Let me start this blog by stating that this blog entry is not to be considered tax advice. Everyone is advised to seek theTaxDivorce advice of an appropriate tax professional, such as a CPA, regarding tax questions. This blog, however, is intended to identify some issues and language to be considered when trying to address the tax issues that commonly present in divorces. These matters should be considered when planning, drafting and negotiating a divorce settlement with your divorce lawyer or mediator.

Each case and agreement is different, so the following is intended to be illustrative only. Tax filing status is a big consideration when divorcing. Some common language in a settlement agreement might provide that the husband and wife can file taxes jointly or separately if they so choose for any tax year that they are still married at some juncture during the year. In that event any tax refunds received are often designated by the agreement as the Separate Property of the recipient spouse. The settlement can also state that if both sides agree to filing jointly, they may do so only so long as they are able under the tax laws. In what proportion any refunds or taxes owed should be discussed such as whether everything (refunds or amounts due) is going to be shared equally or in proportion to the respective contributions towards taxes or responsibility for any shortfall. Continue reading →

Newborn cryingLast week, I blogged about temporary or pendente lite maintenance.  This blog will discuss temporary child support or pendente lite (while the case is pending) child support in New York cases.  Pendente lite child support is the child support that is either agreed upon or awarded by a court while a divorce or legal separation proceeding is pending and not yet resolved.  In Family Court child support cases, the amount that is paid while the case is pending and not yet resolved is called temporary child support.

The Child Support Standards Act dictates the presumptive amounts of child support to be applied in both the Supreme Court or Family Court cases.  The law for Supreme Court cases is found in the Domestic Relations Law Section 240 [1-b].  The Family Court Act contains the provisions in Family Court Act Section 413.  Courts may use the Child Support Standards Act in applications for pendente lite or temporary child support but they are not required to do it.  Davydova v Sasonov, 109 A.D.3d 955, 957-958, (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep’t 2013). Continue reading →

The old law in New York for temporary or pendente lite (Latin for while the case is pending) maintenance, prior to the 2010 revisions, Money in exchange for documentswas that temporary maintenance was supposed to “tide over” the spouse with less income (the “non-monied” spouse) while the divorce case was ongoing.  There was no formula for the calculation, rather it was to be based on subjective criteria which was outlined in the statute.  The 2010 law that is in effect now, however, contains a guideline formula, much like we have in place for child support (although the formulas and amounts differ from child support) to give guidance as to what the presumptively correct amount of temporary maintenance that a court should order.  An amount of temporary maintenance can be agreed upon by the parties in a case with the help of their mediator or lawyers.  Often, however, Judges are called upon to decide the amount, and that is where the statute must be considered.  It is important to note, however, that the temporary maintenance amount is not what is ordered at the conclusion of the divorce.  That maintenance, if there is any, is usually durational in nature and does not have a specific formula to guide in its determination.

The temporary maintenance law is in Domestic Relations Law Section 236(B)(5-a).  Each sides gross income, as reported in the most recent federal tax returns, after the deduction of FICA and any applicable local taxes (city only).  The lesser of two calculations is supposed to be the guideline amount of temporary maintenance.  Initially, a cap of of $543,000.00 (this is the cap as of the current date) of the payor’s income is to be used in determining the calculations.  The first calculation involves taking the difference between thirty percent of the income of the monied spouse and 20% of the non-monied spouse.  The next calculation involves taking forty percent of the combined parental income minus the payee’s income (non-monied spouse’s).  The lower number from these two calculations is the guideline temporary maintenance amount. Continue reading →

Do divorce filings increase in the New Year? As a family law attorney, I see a general decrease in actual court appearances and new case filings during the latter half of December, but at the same time there are a lot of inquiries Break-upand planning for actions that people intend to take in the New Year. What could account for the lull in December and the increase in the New Year? Some of the reasons are obvious such as, that are holiday parties and vacations being taken by lawyers, judges, and the rest of the world at the end of the year. Because of the holidays, there are less court appearances scheduled. Also, a lot of people are reluctant to begin divorce proceedings or their family law cases during the holidays. It makes sense to try to keep the peace until the holidays are over. Not many people want to distract themselves with a battle at the end of December. People tend to have a lot of family interactions at the end of the year which might explain the family law case slow down.

What happens then in the New Year? I think the cases that normally would have been started had it not been holiday season just get delayed until the New Year. I believe that many could be as a result of New Year’s resolutions. Some people decide that they will not tolerate things as they have been for another year. Also, sometimes the holiday seasons can make family difficulties amplified. Continue reading →

Looking at daughtersParenting time or visitation schedules vary from family to family.  For the most part, the term visitation has been replaced by the term parenting time but both are still used.  Parenting time or visitation schedules detail when either parent spends time with their children.  First in this article, I will talk about some of the typical parenting time schedules that I encounter and can think of as a Child Custody Lawyer in New York.  Afterwards I will talk about where and how the orders are made.  The possible variations or orders or stipulations about parenting time are endless so please use this blog as suggestive of possibilities rather than as a definitive and exhaustive guide.

Each family is different, so as common as the schedule might be in any particular case, there are nuances which might appear in any one visitation or parenting time schedule.  Some parenting time schedules are not specific at all and simply require that the parents will discuss and arrange for mutually agreeable parenting time in the future.  Other cases have more specific provisions.  Probably the most common parenting time schedule that I see is where one parent has parenting time every other weekend from Friday evening or Saturday morning until Sunday evening or Monday morning.  Often times the order can include a weekly or bi-weekly dinner or overnight visit in the middle of the week to supplement the alternating weekends.  What is inherent in this type of parenting schedule is that one parent is the primary residential custodial parent.  What this means, in layman’s term, is that they live with one parent and have visitation (parenting time) with the other.  Please see our other blog entries and website or call to learn about the different custody arrangements.

Typically, in this aforementioned type of generic schedule, the children will alternate holidays and school breaks between the parents.  Some couples have situations that certain holidays are more important for them.  In that situation one parent may be granted the parenting time for the children always for that holiday.  If the holiday is equally important to both parents and both parents want time with the child(ren) each year then a schedule to determine how that holiday is shared each year might be appropriate.    Usually there is a provision that both parents may interrupt the normally scheduled parenting time of the other to be able to put together one or more weeks vacation time together each year.  A provision is usually included to give one parent priority for selection of vacation time in odd numbered years and the other in even numbered years.   Clauses that require itineraries and contact information for where the children will be staying during vacation times are often included as part of the order. Continue reading →

The Family Court in New York has the jurisdiction to hear cases involving allegations of abuse and neglect of children.  They are Mother Protect Childcommonly referred to as “N” docket cases since the docket number starts with the letter N.  Generally the case belongs in the county of residence of the subject child or children.  There is nothing to prevent criminal proceedings at the same time as the family court proceedings, however, the family court cases are intended to be about protecting the children, whereas criminal proceedings are about crime and punishment.  Services might be ordered by the court to help protect a child, improve the family situation or to aid in getting children out of foster care while the case is ongoing.

One of the first acts that a court will take when an abuse or neglect proceeding is initiated will be to appoint an attorney to represent the child or children who are the subjects of the case.  The job of the attorney for the children is to advocate for what the children want.  This is their same role whether they are appointed as attorneys for the children in a child custody case, which are commonly referred to as “V” docket cases, or in an “N” docket cases.  In the case of children not old enough or mature enough to formulate their own opinions of what they want an attorney for the child is permitted to substitute their judgment for that of what the children say they want.  It is the job of the judge to determine what is in the children’s best interests.

Often child custody, abuse and neglect cases proceed at the same time in front of the same judge since they involve the children and what is in their best interests.  I often represent a parent or a relative in such cases.  Many times my client is attempting to get custody for themselves when someone else is facing the allegations of abuse or neglect. Children might be ordered to be removed from their home when an abuse or neglect case is ongoing,  Relatives are supposed to be located and informed that the case is ongoing and that they have the possibility to seek custody, become foster parents, or in cases where reunification with the parents is not necessary or possible, that they may seek to adopt the children themselves.  When there is an appropriate relative to live with, and the children need to be removed from their current home, the court can give that relative custody, place the children with that parent, or in the care of the social services agency to place with the other parent, relative or in foster care when there are not other appropriate options.  Sometimes the court might decide that the child should remain with the same parent despite that the neglect or abuse case is ongoing. Continue reading →

Yes, void marriages can be decreed a non-event or an annulment can be granted of a marriage if certain specific grounds are met. The Shotgun weddinglaw on annulments is contained in the New York Domestic Relations Law Article 9.  If someone was still married, and their spouse still living, when the next marriage takes place, that next marriage is what is called voidable.  A case needs to be started, in a New York Supreme Court, to have the marriage declared void in that situation.  Of course bigamy is also a felony in this state, but the action in Supreme Court to have the marriage voided is a civil case, not a criminal proceeding.  This action can be started by either the husband or wife in that second marriage or by the first wife or husband.

If one of the parties to the marriage was not old enough to consent to getting married, an annulment can be granted.  It should be noted that this action can only be started by the person who was under the age of consent, or someone acting on his or her behalf (like a parent or guardian), and not by a party who was over the legal age of consent at the time of the marriage.  Also, if the underage person becomes legal age, and then voluntarily lives with the other as wife or husband, afterward then they can not maintain an action for an annulment.

A relative of someone that is mentally retarded and has an interest in annulling the marriage of the retarded person, can initiate the action during the life of either the wife or husband.  Annulment cases can proceed by a relative of a mentally ill person, if one of the parties to the marriage was mentally ill, while the illness continues, or after the mentally ill person dies while the illness continues.  If the mentally ill person becomes well, that person can proceed with an annulment, however, only if they did not feely live together as husband and wife after the formerly ill person became well.  The spouse of the mentally ill person, that was unaware of the illness when they got married, can start an annulment if the spouse was in that condition when the marriage took place.  These cases can be brought by someone called a “next of friend”, in some instances, if no relative starts an annulment on behalf of the mentally ill or retarded person.  Next of friends are someone that acts on behalf of the incapacitated person, like a parent, relative, or guardian, but does not have an official legal relationship to that person. Continue reading →

My mission is to help the wronged, unhappy or injured get what is fair and right.  This is the initial draft of my “Why” as I discovered scales of justiceyesterday when doing an exercise at the annual training of the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals.  The “Why” can be tweaked and tested, but this is was what I came up with after working with others to search for it in the exercise.  The exercise to find our Why was as suggested by Simon Sinek’s method through our trainer at the meeting.  My understanding of what the Why is would be that which we can not help but doing because it is our natural inclination.  On reflection, I get to do this as a matrimonial,  family law lawyer and mediator on a daily basis.  As a mediator, it is not my role to advocate for either side of the issue, but rather to facilitate the coming together to resolve their issues.  When I look at the settlements as crafted between the parties from my mediated cases, I find that they are fair balanced agreements.  It is my job as a review attorney to identify for my clients the fairness of the agreements that have been negotiated with a different mediator.

As previously mentioned, I am a big fan of alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation and collaborative law, but the majority of my cases are and have been in the more traditional route as set up by the court system, which is the adversarial system.  So, a lot of my clients are in battle, and as their lawyer, I fight hard for them.  Since I am an experienced litigator, trained and certified mediator and collaborative law attorney, it allows me to help people with divorce and family law issues no matter what process they choose to use.  It turns out though, that my chosen profession fits the why that I discovered.  Invariably, people with matrimonial and family law issues either feel wronged, unhappy or injured in some way.  It is my job as their lawyer to help them get what is fair and right.

There are many reasons that I recommend mediation or collaborative law over the traditional adversarial route for those that are willing and able to do it.  To name a few of them, the adversarial method tends to foster bad feelings between the parties as the usual modus operandi of everyone involved is to emphasize the good for their side and the bad about the other.  In other words there is mud slinging in litigation.  Just because a relationship has ended, however, does not mean that people need to leave the relationship as enemies.  Two parents are forever connected by their children even if they are no longer romantically involved. Continue reading →

There are various resources out there free on the internet which are useful in practicing New York family law.  The New GavelYork statutes are one of the most important sources of information and are located in different places on the internet.  As a Long Island Divorce Lawyer, family law attorney and mediator, I pay for services where I have access to statutes, cases and public records information that enhance my ability to search for information.  But, there are also a lot of areas on the internet where there is helpful free information.

One convenient place to find statutes for the various New York laws is the Cornell Law website. The Domestic Relations Law is controlling for matrimonial practice in the New York Supreme Court. The Family Court Act controls for practice in the Family Court. The Civil Practice Law and Rules contains rules about the dynamics on procedure such as the filing and service of cases, rules of evidence in civil cases, the making of motions and discovery procedures just to name a few areas this law controls.  This website is also a good source to locate legal professionals who practice specific areas of law in various geographies. Case decisions for New York matters may also be found through this website.  There are links to published decisions for New York and other jurisdictions on this site.

Another huge resource for family law and all other areas of practice in New York court is the court website located at nycourts.gov.  This site also has links to find published decisions for case law in New York.  There is a large volume of information, tools and forms on this website which are invaluable for lawyers and litigants alike.  I’ll spend the rest of this article highlighting just some of these that I find important. Continue reading →